Local mom to run 50km from Langley to Vancouver to combat overdose crisis

World Mental Health Day is Saturday, Oct. 10

Local nurse Sheila Henry, 41, is running 50-kilometres from Langley to Vancouver on World Mental Health Day (Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020) to raise awareness and funds to fight the overdose crisis in the province. (Sheila Henry/Special to Langley Advance Times)

A local nurse is running 50-kilometres from Langley City to Vancouver on World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about the overdose crisis during the pandemic.

“I’ve been working with the overdose crisis since 2016, since the emergency was declared,” said Sheila Henry. “It changed my life.”

The Walnut Grove resident said it was the number of deaths related to illicit drug overdoses reported by the BC Coroners Service in recent months that led her on this path.

“It was really profound to me, it struck me,” the 41-year-old said as she fought back tears.

In the first eight months of 2020, the province has already surpassed last year’s total of illicit drug overdose deaths, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service.

READ MORE: First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Just shy of 150 people fatally overdosed in August, or roughly nine people every two days, bringing the total since January to 1,068 deaths, the data indicates.

“I wanted to do something that garnered attention, something I could be proud of and something not a lot of people do,” Henry said about deciding to run the marathon.

On Saturday, Oct. 10 Henry will be running from Langley to Vancouver in an effort to raise awareness and funds to benefit the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.

“I really like what they’re about… it really fits with how I feel about so many things in regards to the overdose crisis, and health, and how public health can have a role and take action,” Henry explained about donating to the foundation.

READ MORE: It’s been a year since a Langley teen died from a suspected overdose, family still awaits charges

As of Friday afternoon, Henry had raised more than $3,500 dollars on her Canada Helps fundraising page.

“A lot of people conflate addiction and the overdoes crisis with homelessness or poverty, which isn’t actually the big picture – it is part of it,” she explained.

Henry will begin her marathon at Innes Corner Plaza in Langley City (20399 Fraser Hwy.) at 8 a.m. Saturday, making stops in Surrey, New Westminster and Burnaby before reaching Strathcona Park in Vancouver (857 Malkin Ave.) before 4 p.m. – she hopes.

“I’m excited. It’s been so emotional the last couple of weeks since I’ve launched my fundraiser online. I’ve cried so much in appreciation… it’s been so beautiful,” she said ahead of the big day.

But Henry said she is new to running and it’s her boyfriend Jamie Cross, 48, who is the athlete.

In July the pair started training for Henry’s marathon.

“Everything I’ve ever done for running has been for myself… watching her do this challenge has nothing to do with herself,” Cross noted about Henry’s compassion and selflessness.

“I’m a completely different man because of the way she loves,” he said.

READ MORE: Some B.C. nurses given green light to prescribe safe drugs amid overdose spike

The BCCDC Foundation for Public Health aims to raise $30,000 before the end of the year to support programs across the province that are working to combat the overdose crisis, according to Kristy Kerr, executive director of the foundation.

“Not only is [Shelia] raising awareness… she’s helping us reach our target,” Kerr said.

Henry, a single mom, said she and her family have also personally struggled with mental health.

“I have two intelligent, beautiful, amazing, adult daughters… My eldest daughter, Kisa, fought depression and self-harm tendencies from a young age and she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder,” Henry noted on her fundraising page.

“My youngest daughter, Tayla, had difficulties with anxiety and at 13 had a brain hemorrhage and required an emergency life saving craniotomy. Afterwards, she needed rehabilitation therapy for a year and had the added challenge of depression.”

“My daughters are going to be my crew [on Saturday],” Henry said.

To learn more about Henry’s campaign or to donate visit www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/50-k-run-to-raise-awareness.

For updates on her marathon visit her Instagram page at www.instagram.com/livingthishumanlife.


@JotiGrewal_
joti.grewal@blackpress.ca

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Jamie Cross, 48, helped his girlfriend Sheila Henry, 41, train for a 50-kilometre run from Langley to Vancouver on World Mental Health Day (Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020). Henry, Walnut Grove resident, is raising awareness and funds to fight the overdose crisis in the province. (Sheila Henry/Special to Langley Advance Times)

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