Fort St. James gets ready for Clare’s Big Ride

The 21-year-old will always miss Fort St. James, the town where she was born and raised.

  • Wed Feb 8th, 2017 12:00pm
  • News

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

For Sally DeMerchant, it’s all about coming home.

The 21-year-old will always miss Fort St. James, the town where she was born and raised.

Now living in Dawson City, Yukon, DeMerchant is arriving home town with a particular mission in mind.

On Feb. 9, a free screening of the film, Clara’s Big Ride will be taking place at the Community Centre in Fort St. James and DeMerchant is preparing to be a guest speaker at the event.

The film is a powerful documentary directed by multi-award winning filmmaker Larry Weinstein chronicling an unprecedented 11,000 km bicycle journey across Canada by six-time Olympic medalist, Clara Hughes.

Hughes is also the spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk, and with this position, she continues to spread a hopeful message through the film by breaking the silence surrounding mental illness and to help create a stigma-free Canada.

And for DeMerchant, it’s all about spreading the word in Fort St. James as she herself has coped with her own mental health issues throughout her life.

“When you live with a mental illness, it’s important to spread the message, to let people know that there are places they can turn to and also for me, it’s about keeping the conversation going even after Bell Day,” DeMerchant said.

Bell Day took place on Jan 25, with the vision of opening conversation surrounding mental wellness.

But DeMerchant is not only going to promote the film. She also has a part in the documentary.

“I was 19 when it was filmed. And I was chosen to represent the north. I was featured and interviewed in Dawson City,” DeMerchant said.

“The film has people share their own stories of hope and coping strategies and in Fort St. James, my hope is to help those with mental health issues and let them know that there is support out there.”

But Hughes is also returning for another reason that hits very close to home.

“Fort St. James has recently lost a young man to suicide recently. I grew up with him and it is difficult knowing that I know what he was going through,” DeMerchant said.

“I feel like I need to come home and support my community. There are so many people there that I care about and who are always there to help out.”

On Feb. 9, DeMerchant will be providing supporting information about mental wellness at Fort St. James Secondary School during the day before the screening of Clara’s Big Ride that evening.

“This year, the focus is on health and healthy ways to manage mental health issues,” DeMerchant said.

“My friend who recently passed away loved hockey, so I want to honour him and his family.”

The screening of Clara’s Big Ride will take place at the Community Centre in Fort St. James on Feb. 9 at 7 pm. An open discussion will be held afterwards. All are welcome.