After walking 4,463 km from Canada’s east coast to Winnipeg over 125 days in 2018, Kevin Redsky is more than halfway through his Hope in the Darkness youth mental health walk across the country.
An Anishinaabe police sergeant from the Shoal Lake First Nation, Redsky saw the need for increased awareness for mental health, both in his 17 years of experience in community policing, but also in his personal life, which has been touched with tragedy.
“The motivation, the inspiration was losing my niece to suicide seven years ago. It weighed heavily on our family. And being a police officer, seeing the struggle that the youth are facing and seeing what’s working and what’s not working,” said Redsky. “Those are the reasons why we wanted to do a walk. Because there’s not enough awareness, not enough conversations.”
The second half of his walk started on July 15 at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, the ending of the first walk.
In 2019, Redsky lost his youngest sister to suicide, a loss that is still fresh.
“We just didn’t feel the work was complete, and needed to keep working to create awareness,” said Redsky. “It just emphasizes the need. You can easily think everybody is fine, but what they’re hiding inside you never really see. The work has to continue, something has to be done, and I felt the best way to accomplish that was to keep moving.”
Redsky and everyone who is part of Hope in the Darkness wants people to know that there are always people who are listening and willing to help.
The extra funds raised in the walk that remain at the end of the journey, that haven’t been used for gas or food, go towards supporting youth who are transitioning out of care and the child welfare system.
Hope in the Darkness is not only about bringing awareness to the struggles that youth can face, but also on changing the relationships between police and youth.
Redsky was just about to hit Morrissey, south of Fernie, on Sept. 10 when the Western spoke to him over the phone. One of the local RCMP officers was there walking with him.
“We’ve had huge police participation,” he said. “It’s amazing, the perception from the community, youth, when they see the involvement of the police. They can be more comfortable if they ever have to deal with police if they see police literally walking the walk and sharing themselves, it might encourage their struggles to those who are listening.”
With the days of Black Lives Matter and Canada’s own struggles with Indigenous issues, Redsky sees building better relationships between the youth and the RCMP as more important than ever. As part of Hope in the Darkness, Redsky is challenging the RCMP in the communities he passes through to join him and walk the 30 km in full gear.
“We’ve had four officers so far, with 30 lbs of gear,” said Redsky. “They’re genuinely in it for the cause. They’re walking for a reason. They may have their own stories, something they’ve been carrying, but they’re in it for a reason.”
This year’s journey is taking it a little easier than the pace set in 2018.
“We’re averaging 30 km a day,” said Redsky. “In 2018 we were targetting 40 km, but that was a bit much.”
Even with that slightly slower pace, with 38 days to go, it hasn’t been a smooth walk since leaving Winnipeg in July.
“Like life, there have been up days and down days,” said Redsky. “We’ve had some difficult stretches with the heat; in Saskatchewan with kind of the same look, so mentally it was challenging there. We couldn’t have been happier to come over the hill in Lethbridge and see the mountain line in the distance.”
Redsky will be arriving in Osoyoos for Day 75 of his journey on Sept. 27. From there, he will be continuing west to Keremeos on Oct. 1, before arriving in Vancouver on Oct. 12 and Day 90.
To get involved with Hope in the Darkness, join an upcoming leg of the journey or to stay up to date on their progress, Redsky and his team post regularly to their website at Hopeinthedarkness.wordpress.ca.
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