Olympian Clara Hughes arrived in Port aux Basques this morning and a group of about 50 residents were there to cheer her on.
Hughes is biking across Canada in an event called Clara’s Big Ride, sponsored by Bell Canada. Hughes hopes to raise awareness of mental health issues on her journey.
She told the crowd she had already travelled 3,800 kilometers and had to go about 160 today to get to an event in Stephenville tonight.
Hughes told the crowd about her own battle with depression after returning from the Olympics with medals in hand. She said like any other illness, it is something you can seek help for.
“You don’t do anything alone, and why would you want to?” she asked.
That message was not lost on some in the crowd. Port aux Basques resident Brenda Billard sought out Hughes to thank her personally before she started her day’s journey.
Billard said she is living with depression and feels strongly that there needs to be more openness about the disease.
“We need awareness for mental health and I was just so excited to meet her today and I’m just so proud that she’s doing this journey.”
Billard agreed with Hughes’ message that it is ok to seek help. She said she has a great support group.
Another former Port aux Basques resident, Crystal Anderson-Baggs, took a moment to meet with Hughes. She had previously chatted with Hughes on Twitter.
“I suffered with anxiety for a long time and its only recently that I wanted to talk about it and be ok with having anxiety,” she said.
Anderson-Baggs said she believes strongly in Hughes campaign to generate talk about mental health.