Cyclists from across Prince Albert gathered at the Alfred Jenkins Field House on Saturday to raise money for mental health services and programs in Prince Albert.
Participants hopped on their bikes for the second-ever Ride for Refuge for Catholic Family Services with the goal of raising $50,000 for the organization. The event nearly hit that mark, finishing with $49,142 raised as of publication.
Organizer Margaret Duncombe said that total is a huge success, given this is only the second time they’ve hosted the event.
“What we needed and what we were really looking for was a signature event where we could do some fundraising once a year,” she explained. “We wanted the message to get out about how important mental health is and how any of the funds that are raised here will stay in the community and they will go to support people getting the kind of support they need.”
More than 110 people participated in the event, roughly 70 of which were bikers with the rest walking in support. The Ride for Refuge began at the 0 km mark of the Rotary Trail near the fieldhouse, and allowed participants to either walk 2.5 km, walk 5 km, bike a 10 km loop, or bike the entire Rotary Trail.
“We have all ages (and) we’re thrilled with the turnout,” Duncombe said.
Catholic Family Services provides individual counselling to adults, and programs for children who have experienced trauma or are grieving.
“We teach some programs on how to deal with anger and how to deal with sadness, depression, all of that stuff. Then we also have a program that works with prisoners who are looking to get out of prison, get jobs and integrate back into the community,” Duncombe explained.
She added that the name can be deceiving because Catholic Family Services is not only for people who practice the Catholic faith.
“It’s the name because initially many years ago, the church did that kind of work and then they don’t anymore,” Duncombe said.
“Because of the history of the connection with church and Residential Schools, there are sometimes people who are uncomfortable with that connection, but that’s why it’s so important for us to have people understand that it’s mental health programs and services.”
In the past, the event has been held later in the year. Duncombe said they moved the event back to Sept. 23 to not interfere with Truth and Reconciliation Day next Saturday.
“We didn’t want to interfere. We actually had Terry Fox run last week and then we have Truth and Reconciliation Day next week, so we went right into the middle,” Duncombe said.
Suzanne Stubbs, who is also the Chair of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board, was in her second Ride for Refuge. Stubbs wore both last year’s shirt and the new shirt as she rode the trail.
“We did last year, and it was excellent,” she explained. “It was a great cause and then it came around this year and we entered again.”
Stubbs and her team, Tour de Friends and Family, raised around $3,500 for the event, a total that surpassed their efforts the year before.
Stubbs was pleased with her fundraising for the event. They finished fifth in fundraising.
The top fundraising team was Mental Health Matters!, which raised $5,720. Team captain Anna Dinsdale was the top fundraiser with $5,000.
Stubbs said one of the main reasons she entered again was to support Catholic Family Services.
“They are a great partner with our school division,” she said. “It’s a great cause, mental health. Anything that we can do to fundraise for mental health, whether it be Catholic Family Services, fundraising for it or whoever, it’s a great cause.”
Supporter Malcolm Jenkins gave a speech and then introduced new major sponsor Mann-Northway and owner Mark Shipley. That was followed by a speech by Honourary Chair Richard Ahenakew of the Northern Lights Casino.
Duncombe then broke down the routes for walkers and bikers who travelled in opposite directions down the Rotary Trail. The route was well-marked for both walkers and bikers and there were volunteer race Marshals throughout the course.
“We’re thankful to Malcolm Jenkins, especially. Canadian Tire stepped up last year to be a lead sponsor. Malcolm Jenkins, through the Malcolm Jenkins Family Foundation, matched those numbers also. He has helped us to meet our goal and I think we will,” Duncombe said.
Participants were invited back to a meal of burgers courtesy of the Knights of Columbus, with food provided by Harold’s Family Foods.
“One of the best things is the best thing Knights of Columbus do all the cooking,” Duncombe said.
Duncombe added that they want to make the fundraiser a tradition and something people look forward to each year.
Ride for Refuge is happening in 27 other cities across Canada. The Ride for Refuge is a family-friendly, in-person fundraising ride/walk held in support of charities that help people seeking hope, safety, and freedom.