June 7, 2024

Never Stop Running: A Run for Chris Returns

A Run for Chris returns to Joe Sams Leisure Park on August 18th!

Now in its third year, A Run for Chris is hosted in memory of Chris Owens, who touched the lives and hearts of so many in this community. To continue the memorial run’s proud tradition of raising funds for programs and services helping those living with mental health and/or substance use concerns, the net proceeds of this event will support St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre located in the downtown core.   

About Chris 

Chris Owens was a runner from the time he knew how to walk. Through every phase of his life, no matter how challenging, dark, or painful, he would pick himself up, get outside and run as far as he possibly could. Living in constant uncertainty, running was his consistent therapy that never wavered. 

On August 20th, 2021, at the age of 26, Chris lost his battle with mental health and addiction. But his commitment to his fight, the vulnerability he showed to others and the obstacles he overcame in coming out about his sexuality have left a lasting impact on our community. Chris will forever be remembered as the most passionate, energetic, loving human being that anyone has ever known, stranger or family. His sense of humour was unmatched, and his presence was undeniable.  

“Almost 300 people attended Chris’ funeral. He was very loved and well-known in Waterdown, and beyond,” shared Megan, Chris’ best friend and co-founder of A Run for Chris. “But you don’t have to have known Chris to take part in the run. Everyone is welcome to register or make a donation. Your support will help destigmatize mental illness and addiction and break down barriers to accessing care.” 

Forever Wandering & Riding the Wave of Life 

Before his passing, Chris and Michelle, his loving sister and A Run for Chris co-founder, spent time travelling the globe together. Whether visiting Australian beaches or Rocky Mountains, Chris always found time for a run.  

Now, Michelle continues to travel, not just for her, but for Chris too. “I make an effort to carry Chris’ ashes with me so that in a way, he can see every sandy beach or beautiful place I see. I know many others have sent photos with thoughts of him in various destinations.” shared Michelle. “Chris was the greatest thing this world was able to experience, and now we experience the world for Chris.”  

How Your Support Will Help 

St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre is a safe environment for young people ages 17 to 25 to receive expert care for mental health and substance use concerns. The YWC team is committed to bridging the gap between the youth and adult mental health care systems – a time when young people can fall through the cracks of the system.  

“The YWC is honoured to have been chosen by Chris’s loved ones to benefit from A Run for Chris this year. This support allows us to continue the inclusive, lifesaving care for young people in our community navigating their mental wellness journeys during a critical and vulnerable time in life. We are so grateful for this support and looking forward to running this year,” shared Taylor Hatchard, YWC Clinical Manager & Research Lead. 

Streams of care at the YWC include early intervention for those with emerging challenges, transition services for young adults moving into the adult mental health system, a mobile team for those facing barriers to accessing care, and culturally sensitive and gender inclusive programming to support BIPOC and 2SLGBTQSAI+ communities who often experience racism, trauma, exclusion, and mental health challenges related to the intersection of their identities. Taylor shared, “Specialized services are important for marginalized and underserviced youth as it supports them in finding community, strength, and pride in themselves and their intersecting identities.” 

To ensure their services are as accessible as possible, the centre accepts self-referrals from youth, as well as referrals from friends, family members, loved ones and healthcare professionals. The YWC also offers low barrier programming options to help engage youth in their services, ultimately to support finding purpose and meaning through their mental wellness journey. For example, the YWC Run Club seasonally supports youth in gaining experience in running, building up to a 5K race. Youth are supported in obtaining appropriate gear (e.g., purchasing new running shoes) and running local 5K races. 

Michelle shared that A Run for Chris chose to designate funds to the YWC as it felt like a resource that really would have helped Chris. “A lot of facilities tend to be quite specific with treatments whereas the reality of the world of mental health and addiction is that they can exist separately, and together, and there isn’t really a one size fits all approach. The fact that the YWC is inclusive with so many program options, it really provides support for those who may not really know exactly WHAT they need, but they know they need help.”   

Michelle and Megan, together with Chris’ family and friends, and even some complete strangers too, will continue to spread awareness of mental health and addiction resources like the YWC with the hopes of saving other families from the kind of loss they have endured. “We will never stop running for Chris.” 

To register for A Run for Chris, or make a donation, visit: www.stjoesfoundation.ca/aRunForChris  

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