Those who know Zach, know he isn’t really that quiet of a kid. He’s goofy, often hilarious, does great impersonations (though sometimes inappropriate) and gets in to trouble now and then. If you’re in Zach’s circle, you’ll see a witty sense of humour and a lack of fear to talk to anyone of any age (or stature). It’s only when you start questioning him about this journey that he starts to get quiet.

For some reason, Zach thinks that when he talks about his quest, or the money he has raised, or anything he has accomplished, that it’s ‘bragging’. Despite our efforts to tell him otherwise, he continues to be somewhat quiet about it. We saw it as humbleness, but maybe it’s something else? He doesn’t want to be seen as different from anyone else.

Last week, Zach’s Grade 8 class and school put together a beautiful assembly, complete with a slideshow, videos about youth mental health, a song they wrote and sang to him and a gift of the picture the school took at Zach’s very first assembly and media day at Codrington. It culminated in a jog around the school property and with Zach being carried on his classmates shoulders. I could tell he was proud, but I could sense something else in his eyes. Then his teacher told me about something he said that struck me. He told her his one regret was that if he could do it again, he would do it with a mask on. So that people would focus on the feat – and the importance of talking about youth mental health – rather than talk about him. This struck me quite fiercely as I’ve been fighting for people to take their masks off when it comes to mental health. But I get it. He isn’t putting his own issues out there, he was highlighting the issues he has seen friends (and myself) go through.

Zach was exceptionally great with younger kids during his journey. He often visited schools and high-fived hundreds of kids who all stood in a row cheering him on. I remember one time, he stepped off the RV and a big group of girls started squealing. He promptly turned around to get back on the coach and it took a bit of coaxing to get him out again (not at the girl stage quite yet I guess). He truly doesn’t understand the fascination.

In order to help him understand the impact of what he has done, we read every single message we receive – and there have been thousands! From kids who are struggling, to adults who wished there were more services when they were young, we’ve received so many heartfelt words of encouragement and support. Yesterday, we received this beautiful message from Brian Shelley via Facebook – and after I read it to Zach, he realized, just a bit more, the power of being a good influence for these young kids.

My four year old son Henry, who just started JK at Codrington this fall, was so inspired by the assembly for Zach that he’s been playing “Zach Makes Tracks” with his Lego (he’s built a trailer where Zach sleeps, a bike, etc). Henry doesn’t fully understand why or what Zach did, but he does know that what he did is important and impressive. Just thought you should know the impact that your family has has on ours – thank you for leading by example. As a Dad, I am proud that one of Henry’s heroes is a young man like Zach. ~ Brian Shelley

Maybe when Zach is a bit older, he can look back and hopefully realize that he accomplished a pretty cool task. He set his mind to something – and finished it. He has helped a lot of people raising over $75,000 (and counting!) for the youth mental health unit at RVH. But this isn’t over quite yet and I suspect from the requests we are receiving, it won’t be for a while. I hope it grows with him and he retains some of that humbleness that keeps him grounded.

Thank you again for all of the beautiful messages everyone! This journey was so much more than we ever expected it to be.