Couple to go the distance

Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation founders gear up for cross-Canada ride in support of mental health

FOR Ginny and Kerry Dennehy, enough is enough.

While the couple has tirelessly worked to do whatever it takes to prevent suicide in young people, this year, they're truly going the distance to make their dreams a reality.

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Founders of The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, named for their son who died at age 17 in 2001, the result of a depression-related suicide, they've raised more than $5 million to combat mental illness, including helping finance the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital, which opened in 2008.

Based on the centre's success, they've similarly committed $500,000 to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation to establish the Kelty Dennehy Mental Health Resource Centre at the new HOpe Centre.

Not wanting to stop there, the couple hopes to work with communities across the country to establish at least one centre in Kelty's name in every province and territory.

"We would like to leave that type of a legacy," says Ginny.

To do so, they're hoping to raise a total of $6.5 million and to support the mission, Ginny, 60, and Kerry, 63, (who also serves as CEO of Vancouver's Pacifica Treatment Centre), are planning to cycle 8,000 kilometres from their Whistler homebase to Cape Spear, Nfld., between May and August.

It's going to be an "amazing journey," says Ginny, of their first national campaign.

Calling the ride Enough is Enough, they've set a goal of raising $1 million. Funds raised through the course of their ride will remain in the province in which they are received. In addition to highlighting the need for more resources, by sharing their story, the couple hopes to help fight the stigma that is at times associated with mental illness.

While the Dennehys have remained steadfast in their dedication to working to prevent other young people and families from experiencing trauma similar to their own, they did waver once. Their daughter Riley had struggled following her brother's death, including experiencing an eating disorder, though eventually found both happiness and wellness. On a trip to Asia in 2009 in pursuit of advanced yoga study, a second tragedy befell the family. Riley, then 23, separated her shoulder and experienced a heart attack, the result of a reaction to prescribed medication.

"She died in her sleep in Thailand," says Ginny. "Honestly I didn't know whether I would be able to ever cope again because you never think in your life you're going to lose one child but never mind losing two children," she adds.

After that, Ginny and Kerry considered putting the foundation to bed. However, an eye-opening experience changed their minds.

Just around that time, they attended an open house at the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital.

"We sat there and we listened to these people talk about what the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre had done for them and how it had helped their child and saved their children's lives and what a difference it was making and we just said, 'How can we stop?'" says Ginny.

Having seen the success of the centre's model in B.C. the Dennehys hope to see other communities across the country come on board with launching their own and they hope to eventually raise enough funds to offer $500,000 in seed money per province.

"We believe this is what people need. They need a place where they can go where they can get all the resources for mental health, there's a person there that can guide them to go through how to seek help, how to get the appropriate attention at that time. When you're suffering from a mental illness there's a whole bunch of organizations and different things involved and you might not be focused enough to understand that. Especially if you're a parent with a child who's suffering from depression or mental illness. You want somebody to guide you along that way and help you and have some empathy and sympathy and so that's kind of what the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre is all about," she says.

The future North Vancouver Kelty Dennehy Mental Health Resource Centre will provide mental health and addiction information to patients of all ages, their families, physicians, health care providers and the community-at-large.

The Dennehys plan to start their ride on Mother's Day. They'll be supported by nephews Quinn, 19, and Keenan, 23. The young Dennehys, from Whitehorse, will be driving an RV and helping out with things like social media and bike maintenance.

"It's going to be really special for us to be able to spend that time with them," says Ginny.

Community members are invited to an end of Day 1 rally and barbecue at Rona at 915 West First St., in North Vancouver at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 12.

The event will also celebrate the launch of Ginny's new book, Choosing Hope: A Mother's Story of Love, Loss, and Survival (with Shelley Fralic), which is being released that day.

"I believe in life you might not have a choice of what happens to you but what you do is you have a choice in how you deal with that. That's why I titled my book Choosing Hope because that's what you have to do. When you go through a tragedy that you can't even believe would ever happen to you, that you have a choice in how you're going to deal with it. Hopefully people who read the book will be able to realize that you can go on, you can go on no matter whatever happens to you in your life," says Ginny.

For more information on the Enough is Enough ride and The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, visit thekeltyfoundation.org.

For more information on the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital, visit keltymentalhealth.ca.

emcphee@nsnews.com

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