A call no parent wants to receive – a walk in support of mental health – Greg’s story

Greg McPherson is appealing for support for his April 16, 2022 Cross City Walk in support of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa. The fundraiser is being run through Facebook and he is hoping to increase YSB’s exposure while exceeding a goal of $10,000. Of that amount, $5,000 has already been raised. Greg is the manager and an instructor at Cooligan Martial Arts and Fitness in Stittsville.

On the morning of January 6, 2019, Greg’s wife took the ill-fated call that no parent should ever receive. Their son, Aric, who had been battling the demons of mental health issues, lost his life to addiction. Greg shared, “Aric was an exceptional child who had accomplished so much in his almost 23 years and brought so much energy into the world. Three years has gone by, but the pain is there every day.”

(Aric. Taken in July 2017.)

For the past two years, Greg has been taking his own mental health breaks through long walks, bike rides and spending time on his kayak. “My walks have seen me walk from one side of Ottawa to my home in Kanata, from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake, from Thorold, Ontario to Niagara Falls and more. My walks have all been solitary up to this point, to spend time alone with the thoughts of my oldest son who we lost in January of 2019 and to find positive on a difficult journey along the way,” said Greg.

Greg emotionally shared, “In January of 2021, a very close friend of my son (and our friend’s daughter), ended up taking her own life. Maddie was an amazing, kind, and energetic young woman with a smile that would light up a room. Maddie never got over losing Aric and we lost her one week after what would have been Aric’s 25th birthday.

Two beautiful souls taken from the world before the world fully benefitted from what they had to offer. Both, Aric and Maddie had taken advantage of services from the Youth Services Bureau in their teens and I am forever grateful that they were there for them. Tragically, there is no magic formula that will help everybody but for every loss, there are a lot more people saved.

“It is difficult to let people into the world that I live because not only am I opening myself up but I am exposing my family as well. The pandemic has substantially increased the need for children’s mental health services and funding is needed to make sure that YSB can continue to provide services for those in need so that other families don’t join our journey.”

Greg has been working with Youth Services Bureau staff members, Patti Murphy and Desiree Rapoch to organize the fundraiser. He hopes that with rallied community support the important services of YSB will be helped and recognized. “A very important service that we all wish that we didn’t need,” noted Greg.

During his April 16 journey across Ottawa, Greg will be joined for the first time with a special someone beside him – his son, Aaron. Father and son will depart at 8:00am from the Orleans Health Hub at 2225 Mer-Bleu Road where the YSB operates as part of the team. The two will have walked through 10 city wards and 44km when the walk ends at Cooligan Martial Arts and Fitness at 12 Cedarow Court in Stittsville.

(Aric with his little brother Aaron. Aaron will be joining his Dad, Greg, on the Cross City Walk in support of the Youth Services Bureau.)

Greg is now very open about mental health and hopes his family’s story will help others. Through powerful story telling, the stigma and shame attached can be diminished. Sharing your story, opens up conversations to provide a safe feeling where family and friends can ask questions if they don’t understand.

Greg invites residents to meet him along the route for support on April 16. See the day’s itinerary below. To donate, please visit Greg’s Facebook fundraising link – https://www.facebook.com/donate/694112781621882/. The fundraiser will remain active until April 30.

(The itinerary for the April 16th Cross City Walk by Greg and Aaron McPherson.)


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