As a hockey player, Rich Pilon battled with some of the toughest players of his era, but he’ll be speaking about a much tougher battle when he arrives in Prince Albert on Thursday.
Pilon spent three seasons with the Prince Albert Raiders, then another 13 in the NHL, but his life almost came to an end in 2004 when he tried to commit suicide. Since then, Pilon has been active in speaking about his experience with drugs and mental health, and he’ll do so again Thursday night when the Prince Albert YWCA hosts An Evening with Rich Pilon at the Ches Leach Lounge.
“It’s just super exciting to have somebody local who has that background and is willing to donate his time to us, help us out, and meet with our clients as well,” said Tonya Kleinert, the manager of the YWCA Our House supportive recovery centre, and one of the event organizers.
“He’s doing some time with (YWCA clients) during the day, and it’s just really awesome to (have someone) give back to his own community.”
Pilon will meet with YWCA clients Tuesday afternoon before speaking at a public event later that evening. Kleinert said she’s excited to hear him speak, and hopeful he can shed light on an issue that still needs a lot of attention.
“I think with mental health, in general in PA, there’s a huge need for help in that area and support in that area,” Kleinert said.
“I think we have people in Prince Albert who definitely bring it into light. I know Nicole Rancourt does a lot of work in regards to that, so I think if people keep talking about it, it’s going to get the attention it needs.”
YWCA Our House has six beds available to residents struggling with mental health and addictions. They’re designed for people who need plenty of support, but not enough that they require a hospital.
Kleinert said they’re always looking for ways to offer more programming for their clients, and having Pilon available to come and speak with them will help fill that need. Addictions and mental health issues are closely intertwined, she explained, so it helps to have someone who can address both.
“It all seems to tie in together,” Kleinert said. “Rich just has that background with addictions and mental health, and that whole life growing up here, so we want to hear about that.”
Tickets for An Evening with Rich Pilon are available at ywcaprincealbert.ca/events. Tickets cost $30 each, or $220 for a table of eight. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the event beginning at 7 p.m. The evening includes opportunities for questions, photographs, and autographs.