KEPPOCH, ANTIGONISH COUNTY, N.S. - A brilliant sun and warm temperatures welcomed those taking in the third annual Jordon’s Warr;or Walk, on the afternoon of Sept. 30.
Hosted by the Jordon Myles Foundation (JMF) and held at Keppoch Mountain, the walk, as described on the foundation’s Facebook page, is “held to remember those warr;ors we have lost, and to raise awareness about mental health.”
Jodi Myles, the mother of Jordon Myles who struggled with mental illness and passed away in 2016, gave an emotional and poignant speech just prior to the walkers, a large contingent from all age groups, setting out on the trail.
“Seeing you all here, knowing this is our third year for the walk and seeing the growth tells me this; we all relate somehow and we all want to do something and here is the thing, most of us, myself included, don’t really know what to do,” Jodi said, her emotions rippling through her words.
“How do you end stigma and shame around mental health? How do we demand better care, education, resources? I don’t know, but I do know I can’t, and I will not, just throw my hands up and say I can’t make a difference. So I surrounded myself with a group of incredible people and, together, we do a few things.”
One of the major things the foundation does is provide You Matter bags to folks admitted to the mental health and addictions unit.
Jodi described the creation of the bags stemming from her bringing Jordon food, a drink, a book, and other small, but necessary and meaningful items, during a time he was admitted and placed in a stark observation room. She talked about the smile it brought to his face and the hug they shared at the moment.
“We’ve donated almost 700 bags since December 2016,” she told the walk participants and others crowded around the lodge at the Keppoch.
“The first Warr;or Walk funded the first several batches; we weren’t even the JMF then, but we haven’t stopped since. Every penny donated today will help those struggling. Most funds will go towards the You Matter bags.
“It’s a little thing really, a little light in a very dark room; but sometimes, maybe, a little light is all you need to see things a little more clearly.”
Money raised during the day was through donations and a silent auction, as well as T-Shirt sales.
In talking to the Casket just prior to the event getting underway, Jodi said it’s definitely the biggest activity for the foundation.
“The foundation was actually created after the first walk,” she said. “We said no registration for the first walk and we literally did it just to raise awareness. We weren’t called anything at that point and then I had $3,000 in my drawer which I became responsible for, so we immediately went to a bank and this was created.”
A couple of months later, around Christmas time, the idea for the You Matter bags came to her.
“They do make a difference,” she said, noting they’ve received a lot of positive feedback from patients and their families.
Jodi talked about the Keppoch setting as an ideal backdrop.
“That is exactly why we come here, for mental health,” she said. “It’s so good to get outside yet, it’s so hard sometimes when you’re feeling crappy. It’s so easy to say ‘oh, take a walk you’ll feel better’ but [it’s not that easy]. So, today, we get people outdoors and they’ll feel it … that is why we do it here.”
And the timing? Just the way it worked out, Jodi explained.
“Jordon passed in February and friends of mine kind of put this seed in my mind, just to keep me going, and we just decided let’s do it in the fall. Really nothing significant about the date. This is Suicide Awareness Month so, now, it does kind of coincide with that, which is great.”
She expressed gratitude that well known musician Tom Curry was on-hand for the event as Curry played songs on the deck of the lodge and provided an ideal musical backdrop to go along with the scenic one
“And I can’t believe this is our third, to be honest with you, I’m overwhelmed,” she said, as cars continued to fill the parking lot.
Just before the group started out on the well-groomed trail, Jodi left them with a final thought.
“Remember as you walk the trail today, we’re not here to celebrate death, we celebrate love,” she said. “Grief is proof that love still exists and this trail shows you that when you are helping people who are struggling, you’re helping people very much like yourself. Real people who have real lives and were loved beyond measure. Whose deaths may have shocked us but for whom we say ‘no more.’
“Don’t hide, we all struggle, let’s support one another.”