Hi! I’m Shelley, Zach’s mom.

When Zach first asked if he could ‘run across Canada like Terry Fox’ to help kids, I said no. I said no for almost three years. But he was relentless. And to be honest, I approached one of the teachers at his school (Mrs. Redmond!) to ask how I could ‘tame’ his desire to do this. She asked why I kept saying no.

Two things dawned on me that day. 1. I don’t want to be a ‘NO’ mom. I want to be a ‘YES!’ mom. It appears as though we get in to a ‘take every opportunity to teach every lesson that you can’ mode – and I thought I was teaching the lesson that you don’t get everything you want in life. Well, I learned the lesson that day. 2. I WANT a child that is inspired by true heroes, that WANTS to make a change, that enjoys helping people and our community and actually sees when things aren’t as good as they could be. So we said YES!

And this journey began.

We are learning so much! We are learning how incredible our community is when a child asks for others help to complete his mission. We have amazing sponsors! We couldn’t believe that The Hitch House and Thor Motor Coach actually donated a BRAND NEW RV for us to use for the summer and for the actual event! We couldn’t believe that Barrie Auto Trim donated the vehicle wrap so that we could spread the message even further. We couldn’t believe that the team at Mind to Muscle was willing to train Zach (since January!) so he is prepared for his journey. We couldn’t believe that some really amazing people (Stew Garner, Christine Baguley, Jane Cocking & Ozz) would take time out of their super busy lives to provide mentorship and help us navigate this very new world of fundraising. We live in an amazing community. And Zach is proud to be giving back in the form of raising funds and awareness for the Youth Mental Health program at RVH.

Why did Zach choose youth mental health? He’s seen friends struggle with mental illnesses, students leaving school to be hospitalized, family members needing help during crisis. He’s seen me struggle with Major Depressive Disorder. I tried very hard to hide the worst of it from him. To convince him that this disease that rears it’s ugly head every so often has nothing to do with our beautiful life. That the tears I cry are NOT because of him, or our family, or our situation. I believed I was sending him the right message – I’m successful, happy and living a very good life. I knew that I was speaking in terms he could understand when he was asked during an interview ‘Why did you choose mental health?’ His answer was ‘Well, my mom has depression, and she cries A LOT for absolutely no reason’. Ha! Mission accomplished.

When Zach first asked if he could ‘run across Canada’, I think he thought that the hardest part would be the actual running. It isn’t. To him, it’s public speaking. I’m not sure if he didn’t realize that in order to make change, you had to let people know, or if he simply learned through this experience that he isn’t fond of standing in front of big crowds. But I’m soooo glad he’s doing it! Despite his fear, he gets up in front every single time, he does speak, and he answers questions. He’s learning that he IS CAPABLE of doing it.

I’m proud of Zach. We are working hard NOT to put words, facts and statistics into his vocabulary. We want – and tell him – to speak from his heart. He doesn’t need to memorize the data of why our region needs this 8 bed youth in-patient unit so much. He just needs to know why HE is doing this. And he simply feels good helping people.

As of today, Zach has raised $25,458. This is a LOT of money to him. But he wants to keep going to make the biggest impact possible for the youth in our community. We’ve learned that RVH serves a very large area and kids, who visit our ER in crisis, are being put on waiting lists for treatment. This struck a very deep cord. We needed to get kids talking MORE about youth mental health.

Zach has been visiting schools and groups and making presentations. Well, we all go. Through this process of learning about fundraising, our message that we are sending out to kids is evolving. Not only do we speak about mental health, but now we also speak about youth making a difference in our community. It was Zach’s idea to mention that he gets very stressed about public speaking, and we thought this was a GREAT message to deliver… You don’t have to do EVERYTHING to make a statement. You don’t have to do something EPIC to make a change. You don’t have to stand in front of large groups to inspire activism. When Zach doesn’t speak in front of hundreds of people, (he stands right beside me as I speak for him) it does NOT diminish the impact of what he is doing. It does NOT take away from his brave commitment to bring awareness to a very important topic. As a matter of fact, we believe it sends a better message. That a kid CAN learn what their limits and boundaries are. They are ALLOWED to express when they’re not comfortable, or stressing about something. This journey of his is not meant to create any issues for him. It’s meant to celebrate his big heart, to make a change in our community and to realize his OWN special gifts.

Our entire family is rallying around Zach. Me, his step-dad Derek (driver and Director of Fun!), his dad and step-mom, his grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, EVERYONE. There is no lack of support! We are grateful to have this inspiring little man in our lives, and we’re happy to see that he remains the humble, goofy, sensitive kid that he is.

A million thank you’s to our community for helping to make my son’s dream come true. We can’t believe it’s happening – and coming so fast! Please support Zach’s journey by donating if you can. Or even by sending inspiring messages.

~ Shelley

Please watch Zach’s video for a glimpse in to his heart and mind 🙂