June 16, 2013 Features & Images » Feature Story

Thinking outside the Bubble 

Whistler locals reaching out beyond the valley to help change the world

click to flip through (6) A centre was built in Karmoja, Uganda to manage the program. Pat Montani with the local team in Uganda.
  • A centre was built in Karmoja, Uganda to manage the program. Pat Montani with the local team in Uganda.

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Dealing with depression – you are not alone

The motivation for the Dennehys to ride across Canada started 12 years ago with their son Kelty. As a 17-year-old Whistler local he had so much going for him. He was good in sports, had a great group of friends, and, on the surface, seemed just like any other kid. But eventually depression took hold of him.

"He didn't want to feel that way," says father Kerry, passion and sadness tingeing his voice.

"But we (his parents) didn't have the skills to help. We found out that the professionals also didn't have the skills to help." Despite his parents' best efforts to find a solution, Kelty eventually took his own life.

Both the Dennehys felt the need to turn their terrible loss into something positive. "We thought the same thing: Warn everybody about the dangers of depression — that you could lose someone like we did. So we decided to start a foundation."  

And soon after that first spark of inspiration and furious devotion, the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation was formed. The new organization had three main objectives: care, research, and education to deflate the negative stigma associated with mental illnesses, a disability that cripples millions of people every year.

Slowly it gained traction and began to make a real difference. And as the family was coming to terms, as much as any family can to the loss of Kelty tragedy struck again — the Dennehy's daughter, Riley, died in Thailand where she was on a yoga training retreat. She'd been prescribed too strong a sedative to ease the pain of a separated shoulder and had consequently suffered a heart attack.

Fast forward to present time when the Dennehys, after much soul searching about how to go on, decided to stay focused on the Foundation. That resulted in the recent donation by the Foundation of $500,000 to Lions' Gate hospital toward creating the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre — a "one-stop shop" for people to gain both an understanding of, and support for those working toward, healing mental health issues. People can talk to a professional, whether in person, on the phone, or online. Over the years, the Dennehys and their foundation have become leaders in addressing the mental health issue in Canada.

"We became experts by default", Dennehy humbly states, "A GP on average has only four hours of training on depression in medical school. The timeline for a new patient to see a psychiatrist can be up to eight weeks. Our goal is to have a centre in every province. This is the first national effort to reduce the stigma associated with depression."

But with a $500,000 price tag, creating a centre in every province is no easy task. So they knew that they had to do something to not only raise money, but also to bring attention to the real-life horrors of depression. Knowing that the Dennehys were burgeoning cyclists, the foundation's administrative director, Carol Baker, suggested the goal of riding a cross Canada. While some might immediately dismiss such a daunting task, the Dennehy's interest had been sparked.  

"Ginny and I happened to get into road biking a few years ago," says Kerry.

"We entered the GranFondo races, and went on a biking holiday in Europe. We looked at each other and said, 'Boy, sounds like an adventure.'" And so the seeds of the "Enough is Enough" ride were born.

"We didn't know how to do it," Kerry casually states. "But everything just sort of came together." Before their tires had even hit the pavement, the Dennehys had raised over $600,000 for the ride, including an RV donated from their friends to trail them on the journey. "Originally we were shooting to raise $1 million but by the way things are going I think we can get two million...or more."

The Dennehy's have employed a media team and a PR person to help get the word out. They run an active blog and are hosting events across the nation to help them on their fundraising journey (to give, go to www.eie.thekeltyfoundation.org). Their itinerary calls for roughly 100 kilometres per day, with downtime spent in major cities to speak with media and various organizations. Ginny will also be visiting bookstores, signing and promoting her new book, Choosing Hope: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss and Survival.

They hope to finish their ride right here in Whistler, celebrating their continental journey with a "Mock-Ending" ride between Vancouver and Whistler. No matter what the final tally on the fundraising numbers are, their ride is already proving successful in helping to deflate the stigma associated with mental illness.

(For more on their journey go to www.piquenewsmagazine.com and follow the Enough is Enough blog.)

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