By Sharon Pond
The past year has been an eye-opener for Kristine Eliakis of Maugerville. She’s learned a lot about herself and others. Her first big lesson happened in May, 2017, as she pounded down the asphalt at Fredericton International Airport in the YFC Runway Run, the major fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick.
Not trained or experienced as a marathoner, Kristine wasn’t prepared for the day and recalls: “I struggled every second. I didn’t know if I could even finish the run.” That’s when the lesson struck. “I started to think about how fortunate I was to be mentally and physically well enough to even attempt the run.” Her self-reflection brought her full circle. Kristine had suffered through two family deaths by suicide—her own father and her son’s father—as well as other mental health issues in her extended family. Like an epiphany, she realized her contribution to the 2018 YFC Runway Run could be more on the fundraising side. She hit her stride.
Kristine set a goal to raise $10,000 and started planning activities to reach it. By May 1, one month before this year’s event, she’d collected almost $7,000 and was still pushing to reach her goal.
Kristine believes that society is making progress in its understanding of and approach to mental health issues. When her father died by suicide 30 years ago, people weren’t talking about mental health issues and how to recognize and help those suffering from them. But, as she has been out in the community fundraising, she’s found people have become more comfortable talking about their own and their family’s experiences. “Not so long ago, I felt there was not enough education about mental health issues. That’s changing. People are realizing it’s okay to not be okay.”
With her year of major fundraising activity nearly completed, Kristine has learned another heartwarming lesson. “People give,” she reflects. She has witnessed this generosity during her monthly fundraising events, including two on-line auctions, a grocery-bagging event at the Oromocto Superstore, as well as a raffle ticket draw and wine fundraiser. She is hoping her final big event, a yard sale, will bring her goal closer.
Throughout her fundraising, Kristine never forgets: “PTSD took my son’s father away (died by suicide), and I truly believe he would still be here if it had been okay to talk about your deepest fears and feelings at the time. My wish is that nobody will fear repercussions for having an invisible illness, and that our darkest feelings can be safely expressed. We all need to look at mental illness issues the same way we look at a common cold or visible physical disability. These things happen. When they do, we need to diagnose, medicate, adapt—whatever it takes to make the mental illness become manageable or, hopefully, be cured.
“I strongly believe that with the awareness I am creating in my fundraising, as well as at the Runway Run, we are opening not only doors, but minds, working for mental wellness.”
Oddly, her first YFC Runway Run experience has not deterred Kristine from giving the actual event another try. She put together a team, the Sole Sisters, that not only includes her best friend of 20 years, but also two friends who are real marathoners, and Kristine will be out there with them on run day, May 26. So if you see one runner lagging somewhat behind the rest of the pack, it may be Kristine. Give her a break and a big hand, for she is definitely a fundraiser extraordinaire for the YFC Runway Run.
Unfortunately, flooding in the Maugerville region forced the postponement of Kristine’s big yard sale. It will be held at a future date to be announced, and you can still support the event by donating items for sale. Contact Kristine at 447-0423. You can also make a monetary donation to her team on-line.