Reflections of 4 Years. So much to say.
I remember the day I coined "Raising Up Warriors". It was nearing my birthday, I was sitting on my couch, and I thought, "Man, all of the mental health campaigns that I am familiar with are never run by the people who know what it's actually like to live with a mental illness." As I pondered this, I thought of the silence and oppression I so often witnessed within the mental health community, and I realized how much I wanted to empower them to share their story, with their truth, and have others from every single walk of life LISTEN. I knew of this other advocate, Jenny, and we connected online - we had part of the event planned before we even met! As we debated what to call my 20th birthday bash, I suddenly thought of it: Raising Up Warriors.
That was my goal. THE goal. We wanted to raise people up, to be warriors in their life with whatever mental health challenges came to pass. Empowerment. Nothing about us without us, right?
Months of planning. Letters. Creating a logo. Support from our Island. Radio and news interviews. Business cards we handed out like candy. Speakers. Music. MC'ing. Silent auction donations. Trivia. Volunteers. Decorations. Donations at the door. Choosing who to support. The date. The time. The venue. Hard work? Like you wouldn't believe. It became our baby. Jenny and I gave it our absolute everything.
With clenched teeth, wondering if people would show up, they poured in. From everywhere, in every area of life.
And then we received standing O after standing O for every speaker. I was bawling. The comments; the solidarity; the hugs; the high fives. Incredible.
REPEAT. YEAR 2. SUCCESS.
REPEAT. YEAR 3. COVID STYLE. STILL SUCCESS. Coffee shop huddles making designs, expanding our team, starting an Etsy shop, learning, loving, growing, donating, laughing.
It has been a beautiful ride. RUW is a creation, a movement, an event that I am proud to have generated, founded, and sustained, and even more proud of my team: the people who stepped into their vulnerability to raise the roof for mental health!!! THEY are the champions. ALL of you - thank you. Heros, warriors, forever. I hear you, the world heard you, and we remember your stories of bravery and courage.
As I wrap up my BSW, have plans to move to Moncton whenever possible, prepare for my 3rd film much larger than the last two COMBINED, in the midst of a pandemic, I have made a really challenging but necessary decision.
Raising Up Warriors will be wrapping up, with the exception of Cayla's bursary which will continue for many years to come.
Perhaps this is a pause, perhaps this is a see you later, perhaps this is goodbye. I am not sure the exact direction from here, but should I revamp and reopen RUW, it will be different. I am different. I am nearly a social worker, and my education has changed and challenged me.
I remain committed to social justice. I will forever cherish these years. You all have blessed me in ways you will never fully know. The elation I have felt because of what RUW has done on PEI (and beyond!) is unparalleled. Thank you for believing in a little girl from Souris with a big dream. It went beyond my WILDEST dreams, and it is all thanks to my partner-in-crime Jenny, her connections, my hometown, and every single other person who has donated, showed up, volunteered.
As for this being my "birthday" project, and in the spirit of wanting to keep that alive, AND because I am currently residing in my hometown of Souris, for my birthday this year, I am asking for donations to Cayla's bursary. Details to follow (my birthday is not until January, and I have too many essays to finish before then!!!!)
With all the love and gratitude to the moon and back and back again,
- Founder of RUW