Base employees to tackle gruelling Wounded Warrior run

Runners from the base left: Lieutenant Commander Simon Brown, Master Seaman Steve Deschamps, and Matt Carlson are joined by Wounded Warrior Run B.C. Director, Captain Jacquieline Zweng (second from right) for the launch event at Jim Pattison Subaru in Colwood Feb. 1.

Runners from the base left: Lieutenant Commander Simon Brown, Master Seaman Steve Deschamps, and Matt Carlson are joined by Wounded Warrior Run B.C. Director, Captain Jacquieline Zweng (second from right) for the launch event at Jim Pattison Subaru in Colwood Feb. 1.

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Four runners from CFB Esquimalt are about to set off on the 5th annual Wounded Warrior Run B.C. and face the physically gruelling task of running the length of Vancouver Island.

The team will begin pounding the pavement in Port Hardy Feb. 19 and conclude Feb. 25 at the provincial legislature in Victoria.

Organized by Wounded Warriors Canada, the purpose of the approximately 600-kilometre relay-style run is to raise public awareness about mental health and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), along with financial support for programs that benefit affected military members and first responders.

Joining the seven-person Wounded Warrior team are Lieutenant Commander Simon Brown of Maritime Forces Pacific, Chief Warrant Officer Mark Dankwerth of Base Administration, Master Seaman Steve Deschamps of Canadian Fleet Pacific, and Matt Carlson, Personnel Support Services Community Recreation Coordinator.

The Big Launch
Runners and support staff gathered at Jim Pattison Subaru Feb. 1 for the official launch event. They were flanked by first responders from the Colwood Fire Department, West Shore RCMP, a colour guard from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 91, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and members of the Victoria Grizzlies junior hockey team, who were there to show their support.

Run Director, Captain Jacqueline Zweng works as a Cadet Instructor at the Regional Cadet Support Unit at Work Point. She was a member of last year’s Wounded Warriors team and shared her own her story of overcoming breast cancer, surgery, and a subsequent car accident to become a runner on last year’s team. While not diagnosed with PTSD herself, she says the support she received from her teammates and the community was essential to her success story and also to Wounded Warriors.

“I truly believe the work of Wounded Warriors Canada is allowing people suffering from mental health issues and PTSD to be okay, to move forward, and to get the support and help they need,” said Capt Zweng. “We truly believe we are all in this together and we want to stand up for the people who stand up for us every day.”

The Road Ahead
The team will cover combined distances of between 48 kilometres to 104 km over six days. Along the way they will make stops at community centres, legion headquarters, and other venues in an effort to help spread the word about PTSD and mental health issues that affect military members and first responders.

Two local businesses showed their support to this year’s fundraising campaign, which has set a goal of $100,000. Jim Pattison Subaru presented Capt Zweng with a cheque for $3,000 and Tilray Canada Ltd. made a $10,000 donation.

MS Deschamps, who works as a steward aboard Canadian warships, says the donations are an indication of the growing popularity of the run in Victoria and across Vancouver Island. A big reason for that, says MS Dechamps, is because almost everyone can relate to the cause.

“I have seen friends, neighbours and co-workers impacted by PTSD, so for me running in this event is a great opportunity to do something real and tangible to address the problem. It’s all about reaching out to the community to capture their attention about PTSD and mental health because it affects everyone.”

LCdr Brown, Executive Assistant to Rear-Admiral Art McDonald, is in the same boat. An ardent recreational runner, he says getting involved in this year’s run was an automatic for him.

“While I have not personally experienced PTSD myself, I think it’s important that people who have not had that experience get involved to show those impacted that we care deeply about them and support them.”

Taking the Lead
Carlson is the team’s lead runner for this year’s event, and will determine what portions of the course each runner covers and the distances they run. Leading up to the race he has provided each member of the team support and advice in pre-event training. When they set off from Port Hardy he will provide them with guidance on how to approach the race course along with instruction for injury prevention.

“One of the key parts of my job is ensuring myself and the other runners stay on schedule so that we make our stops at various legions and community halls on time,” says Carlson.

He’s been an admirer of the event when it began five years ago and its founders Allan Kobayashi and Dan Bodden.

“When MS Deschamps came up to me a few months ago and asked me to be involved, I was honoured to even have been asked.”

For more information about Wounded Warrior Run B.C. and how to donate or offer your support, visit their webpage.

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