Hundreds rallied around a good cause, most of them running their heart out at Burl's Creek Events Grounds, helping the inaugural Oro-Medonte Kids Run run raise $10,000 for youth mental health.
“I feel really proud of how it turned out,” said Mikayla McDermott, who, with her twin sister Madison organized the event at Burl’s Creek to raise money for the Simcoe Muskoka Child and Youth Mental Health Program at Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), Barrie. “I think all our hard work has paid off.”
The money will go toward the program that includes an eight-bed inpatient unit as well as outpatient services, said Jenna Reid, donor relations specialist with the RVH Foundation.
“It’s amazing,” she said, of the run and the money raised through it. “I’m blown away by the community response and the hard work (parents) Jennifer (and) Neil, Madison and Mikayla have put in.”
To rally support for the event, the twins canvassed not only their school, but also made presentations to other partners, such as Township of Oro-Medonte council, the township's chamber of commerce, RVH Foundation and the Oro-Medonte Lions Club.
Madison McDermott said they learned a lot about mental-health issues while organizing the event. For example, she said one in five youth experiences mental-health issues.
The purpose of the event was not only to raise money for the RVH program, said Madison, but also to introduce a solution to mental-health issues.
“Feeling good about yourself and having high self-esteem helps avoid it,” said Madison, adding being involved in sports or music or other extra-curricular activities is one way of achieving this goal.
To help get youth involved in such activities, organizations in the area, such as the YMCA, Kinark and New Path set up booths to educate kids and families about being active.
Montana Kenny, the twins’ classmate, came out to support her friends.
“I felt like getting out, being active and supporting them,” said the 11-year-old Oro-Medonte resident. “It’s important for young people to get knowledge about it, so if they get mental health issues or a friend has it, they know what to do.”
Young Ryan Smetana, who participated in the 5k run, knew exactly what kids should do: "Talk to your doctor, parents or teacher or someone you trust,” said the 11-year-old, of Marten River, who has ADHD and knows what it is like dealing with a mental-health issue.
That’s a policy his parents endorse, too.
“Discuss how you’re feeling and talk about things,” said his mother, Cara Smetana. “Kids should know that parents are always there for them, and they love them.”
Many local politicians were also present Saturday morning to show their support to the cause and the McDermott twins.
“I think it’s absolutely wonderful,” said Harry Hughes, mayor of Oro-Medonte Township. “It’s neat to see the kids involved.
“The only reason we have such good health-care programs is because of community events like this,” he added.
The response from the community, young and old alike, made Jennifer McDermott, mother of the twins and their younger sibling, proud of the efforts of her daughters.
“It’s been a great experience for them,” she said. “It’s helped them work in a team, do talks and meet different people.”
At the end of the day, as Mikayla and Madison relaxed with their friends and other runners, they said they couldn’t have asked for better results for their efforts.
They added that they would like to turn the event into an annual fundraiser.