Dennehys' Dream 

Whistler couple completes cross country odyssey raising funds and hope for mental health projects

click to flip through (11) The Dennehys are all smiles in Newfoundland on August 11.
  • The Dennehys are all smiles in Newfoundland on August 11.

Hundreds of people bike across Canada every year — a rite of passage, a trip of goodwill, on a mission to spread one message or another.

Kerry and Ginny Dennehys' cross-country journey this summer to raise money and awareness for mental health was different, for in a way it was a collective journey, with Whistler on board.

Whistler, their community, which has stood behind the Dennehys for more than a decade, opening wallets, sharing in their sorrow, believing in their cause, followed their moving milestones through Kerry Dennehy's candid and, at times, poignant blog on Pique Newsmagazine's website.

Called Enough is Enough, the Dennehys set out on their mission, raising about $2 million for the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation. One million dollars of that came this week when Whisler couple Andy and Cheryl Szocs committed the funds to Enough is Enough.

"I feel one of our strongest areas where we can all make a difference in reducing the stygma of depresssion," said Andy.

Though the ride ended when the Dennehys dipped their toes in the Atlantic on Aug. 11, the finale comes today when they roll into Whistler on August 29.

Pique relives the journey to get here, and what Kerry and Ginny learned about Canada, about Canadians, about each other, and about their dream.

The Route

Excerpt from Kerry's blog:

We wanted to be as businesslike as we could, appearing in front of media and live audiences as much as possible, but we also wanted some Zen moments through the towering Rockies and the golden wheat fields of our prairies. Ginny and I have never been to Quebec City, I have never been to Ottawa, and neither of us have been through New Brunswick, PEI or Newfoundland, so the trip will marry toiling for a great cause, reducing the stigma and educating society on mental illness, with a big dose of Canadiana, cycling through what is without a doubt the best country on earth.

Staring up at a steep and daunting pass in the Rockies, not even out of British Columbia with the rest of Canada looming forever eastward, 60-year-old Ginny Dennehy sat on her bike and wondered how she was ever going to do it.

The hill was too steep. Too hard, she sighed. She wasn't fit enough. Hadn't put in enough hours training.

What was she doing out here, on this lonesome saddle, the unforgiving blacktop yawning endlessly ahead?

And, more importantly, how was she going to get up this hill?

Despair threatened, lurking on the edge. Always lurking.

Easy, to succumb to the fears, the self-doubt, to give in.

Infinitely harder to carry on.

Ginny turned to the only place to get solace and strength — her children — Kelty, forever 17, Riley, forever 23.

"I said to Kelty and Riley 'I need your help. I need your help.'

"And you know, ever since I said that I never had a difficulty going up a hill again. I just kept going and going. And I got stronger and stronger and stronger every day."

"I was with them the whole time."

Kelty and Riley were the very reason why the Dennehys were on their bikes in the first place. It was for them that Ginny and Kerry were riding across Canada, raising money and awareness for mental health issues and prompting discussions in the hope of generating a new way of thinking about the disease, with a goal to erase the stigma associated with it.

Over those 8,000 kilometres through snow, seemingly ceaseless rain, pelting hail, and fast bluebird days, from Whistler to Cape Spear, Newfoundland, Kelty and Riley were never far.

They never are, though Kelty died in 2001, Riley in 2009.

Their names are etched in ink on their dad Kerry's arms, one on each side.

"I had them riding with me and I thought about that a lot," recalls Kerry.

"I thought: what would they be thinking about us going across the country and doing all this for them?

His answer?

"You just feel that they'd be honoured and that they would be pleased that we are not forgetting them. And that, even in a way, that they're not gone. They live on."

Day 97 or Day 4:

On the return trip home

As the afternoon progressed we listened to John Mayer and for me it always brings back memories. That was one of Riley's favourite albums. We would listen to it together. As I remembered back to those times with tears in my eyes I once again reflected on the enormous journey we have just completed...not only physically but mentally and emotionally.


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