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 with 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

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 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 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 displayed during the walk by our tireless "sandwich board" volunteers:


  • We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better...
  • Let's remove stigma from mental illness and Borderline Personality Disorder...
  • We are all in this together, you are not alone...
  • Validation before problem solving...
  • Emotion Regulation Disorder is the new name for Borderline Personality Disorder...
  • Let's teach DBT skills in schools...
  • Let's intervene, let's intervene early...
  • Show me compassion and empathy first, don't just tell me how to change
  • Let go of judgments and believe in me so that I can believe in myself
  • Accept me so that I can better accept myself
  • We are all doing the best we can and we can all do better next time
  • Take care of yourself then you can attend to others
  • Be mindful - Observe, describe, participate effectively
  • Observe your own emotions rise and that of others, pause then engage effectively
  • Strive to be wise, not just rational or emotional
  • Change what you can, accept what you cannot
  • Validation is not agreement
  • Validate, Validate Validate
  • Be supportive, let go of judgements
  • We can't control having strong emotions but we can change how we respond to them
  • Hope is everything and is always there even when I cannot see it
  • BPD is more common than Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder combined 6%
  • The suicide rate of BPD victims is 400 times that of general population
  • BPD is the third leading killer of young women between the ages of 15-24
  • 1 of 5 seek help, 4 of 5 benefit from treatment
  • 4,000 young people die by suicide per year in Canada
  • I am not the disorder. I am a person
  • Stop the Stigma - by Speaking Up
  • Living with BPD is like not having an emotional skin
  • Genetic vulnerabilities and invalidating environment could lead to BPD
  • Breathe
  • Mindfulness is not what you think
  • Mindfulness is being present moment to moment
  • Mindfulness is just observing, paying attention to non-judgement
  • Patience, trust, non-striving and acceptance
  • Mindfulness does not come by takes practice
  • Let your breath be your anchor to observe thoughts as they arise
  • Observe thoughts as they come and go like waves on the ocean
  • Pay attention to what you are actually paying attention to
  • What we frequently think we become
  • Turning my auto-pilot off
  • Only that day dawns to which we are awake - Thoreau Walden
  • It is a radical act of love to just just down and be quiet for a time by YOURSELF
  • You are HERE!
  • Make each moment count!
  • I am a valuable part of all that EXISTS
  • I am Love. ALL is Love
  • The practice of mindfulness is not to follow your heart but to train your heart
  • It's OK, let it be
  • Smile at thoughts, they are empty. The only power thoughts have is the power you give them
  • The benefit will come to your life with consistent mindfulness practice everyday
  • Whatever you do to make it mindful!
  • Kindness is pure wisdom
  • Mindfulness is free or craving, want or hate
  • Be gentle to yourself as well as others
  • When you feel connected to someone that connection gives you purpose
  • Practice kindness whenever possible. It's always possible - Dalai Lama