Sashbear 2017 Walk Breaks All Records!

On Sunday, May 28th, Toronto’s Sunnyside Boardwalk became a sea of orange as a record-setting 650 family members and friends of those suffering from mental illness, and leading mental health practitioners from Canada and the United States, gathered for a 5K Walk in support of The Sashbear Foundation.

Walk by the numbers

  • Total participants: 650
  • Funds raised: over $100,000
  • Volunteers: 130
  • Media: 2 TV, 2 Print
2018 Sashbear's Annual General Meeting Notes

Exceeding expectations

“Wow, wow, and wow,” were the words Sashbear founder Lynn Courey used after the walk to sum up her feelings for the day. “What an incredible 2017 walk. No words can express my gratitude.”

This was the 5th annual Sashbear Borderline Walk, and not only was there a record number of walkers but also the funds raised totalled more than $100,000, almost twice the amount raised in 2016.

“This was a mammoth event and we could not have asked for anything more,” said Mike Menu. “We have exceeded our expectations in all areas thanks to all of our participants.”

The walk was organized by a team of 130 volunteers led by Heather Rider and Catherine Needham.

“On Sunday, this huge group of volunteers worked smoothly and efficiently to make the day go without a hitch, “said Heather. “Their passion and dedication to Sashbear are truly inspirational.”

Getting ready and the media arrives

Walk volunteers arrived at Sunnyside Beach at 6:45 am to begin setting up for the walk. By 9 am the registration table was open, the podium was set up, the music was playing, the VIPs were arriving and CTV and CBC television cameras as well as French newspaper L’Express de Toronto were on their way to interview Lynn Courey and Mike Menu. Click the pictures below to view CBC and CTV broadcast video (CBC broadcast starts at 8:05min mark):

CBC Toronto TV interview, click to view broadcast and go to 18:05min mark   CTV Toronto interview, click to view   L'Express de Toronto interview

Kickoff ceremonies

The event kicked off promptly at 10 am with actor John Ralston as Master of Ceremonies. Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani and MPP Cheri DiNovo both came out to support the Sashbear Walk and gave brief speeches, offering words of hope and encouragement. This was the first time the walk was attended by federal and provincial politicians.

Parkdale-High Park MP Arif Virani   actor John Ralston, MC   MPP Cheri DiNovo

With Olympians Heather and Britany MacLean by her side, Lynn Courey announced the installation of a new commemorative bench at Sunnyside Beach facing the water. The commemorative plaque reads:

The Sashbear Foundation
Dedicated to making waves on mental health
In honour of those we lost too soon

from left to right: Brittany and Heather MacLean   Commemorative bench

R. Shelley sang a new song written specifically for this year’s walk entitled “It’ll Be Alright”, and the walk officially got underway at 10:45.

R. Shelley singing it'll be allright

Heather and Brittany were on hand to greet the walkers at the turn-around mark at Sheldon Lookout and posed with everyone who wanted the honour of having a selfie with an Olympic athlete.

Karen Waddell led a mindfulness walk across the Humber Bay Arch Bridge.

Mindfulness Walk over Humber Bay Bridge   Mindfulness Walk over Humber Bay Bridge   Mindfulness Walk over Humber Bay Bridge

The theme of this year’s walk was “Families for Youth” – highlighting the powerful role the family plays in helping to support loved ones struggling with mental illness. The Sashbear Walk was honoured to have the following esteemed guests from the U. S.:

Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D., Director of the Boys DBT Program and Director of Training in Family Services at McLean Hospital, and Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Perry Hoffman, Ph.D., President and co-founder of the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder
Preston Thompson, CEO of Behavioral Tech and Executive Director of the Linehan Institute in the United States

Alan Fruzzetti, Ph.D.   Perry Hoffman, Ph.D.   CEO of BTech - Preston Thomson

Dr. Fruzzetti and Dr. Hoffman, pioneered the Family Connections™ Program. That program provides education, skills training, and support for people who are in a relationship with someone who has mental health issues. The Sashbear Foundation is leading the drive to expand access to this program across Canada and has delivered the program to over 500 families since 2014. Sashbear also supports life skills education directly to youth in high schools through presentations and via its skills curriculum pilot program. Demand for both Sashbear programs is growing rapidly and funds raised from the 5th Annual Borderline Walk will help the Sashbear Foundation to continue to deliver these programs in Canada.

Pat Healy, Sasha Menu Courey’s heart recipient, and his wife Karen drove 9 hours from Boston in order to participate in the fifth annual Sashbear Walk, and Pat was interviewed by CBC.

Heart Recipient Pat Healy and wife Karen from Boston

Borderline Walk pictures

Pictures from the Borderline walk from Larry Zeligson, Derek Samaha and Diana Fernandez. Just click on the images below to see full albums.


Borderline Walk Video

Your support makes a difference

With the money raised from this event, we are disseminating the importance of early prevention, life coping skills, and a more compassionate validating environment for everyone. We are bringing awareness and support to communities through our school talks, workshops, and conference networking sessions.. Here are some of the efforts that your donations will help fund:

  • Family Connections in Toronto and expansion throughout Canada
  • Social Emotional Learning STEPS-A DBT skills in Schools Pilot Research Study
  • Future events to raise awareness
  • Capacity-building projects such as DBT training

Our Walk Sponsors

Thank you to our sponsors of this year’s Borderline Walk and to the Vogtle family for their generous donation:

Messages of awareness

The following messages of awareness were shown during the walk by our tireless volunteer “sandwich people” which carried them, one on their back and one on their front: