Local politicians hit the ground running for women’s mental health support

Mathieu and Theresa
Ottawa City Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Theresa Kavanagh, co-captain for this year’s LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women.
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by the Royal Ottawa Foundation

When it comes to leadership and political advocacy, Ottawa City Councillors Mathieu Fleury and Theresa Kavanagh are more than willing to venture outside Ottawa’s municipal chambers to get things done. 

In fact, both politicians have been avid participants in a number of community-based initiatives over the years, including this year’s Run for Women — a fundraiser dedicated to raising money and awareness for women’s mental health and programming at The Royal.

“As a local city councilor, it's important for me to be involved in my community, for me to be aware of the challenges we face as a society and to do what I can to speak up, to be engaged and to make a difference,” said Fleury, who is a co-captain for this year’s event alongside Kavanagh. 

“I believe initiatives like the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women are important as fundraisers, but they're also important to demonstrate leadership.”

Jenna Sudds

However, politicians aren’t the only community members who can demonstrate the kind of leadership that comes with taking an active part in the Run, adds Jenna Sudds, Member of Parliament for Kanata-Carleton, and another avid participant and captain in the annual Run for Women. Given the universality and importance of women’s mental health, events like the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women provide opportunities and services that benefit whole communities and ensure that all participants can make a difference, whether they be local constituents or political leaders.

“This is a cause that's near and dear to myself, and The Royal is an organization that has served my family well in our time of need,” said Sudds. “I think all of us have had a woman in our lives who has struggled or who struggles now, and so the opportunity to come together with this event is an opportunity for all of us to help.”

This year’s LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women — which will take place both in-person and virtually — is looking to raise over $500,000 to help The Royal close the gender gaps in mental health, using the funds to expand access to gender-specific mental health research and care for women in Ottawa. Much of this funding will go towards supporting women in the capital region with diverse needs who are under-recognized, under-served and have specialized mental health needs for which traditional (and often-male focused) mental health services don’t suffice.

But reaching this goal will require nearly 6,000 members of the Ottawa community to step forward and participate — particularly as team captains like Fleury and Kavanagh, who have mobilized their friends, family and colleagues over the years to increase the Run’s reach and awareness about the inequities The Royal seeks to eliminate.

“I am a feminist, and by being an ally, I am speaking up about the barriers and lack of opportunities that women face,” said Fleury. “I do that as an elected official, as a parent, and as a white male with privilege in order to raise awareness about the challenges women face in our society, even today.”

Sudds echoed this sentiment, citing the combination of advocacy for women led by women — which for her, also manifests in her title as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Women, Gender Equality, and Youth — and support from male allies as a facet of the Run that makes the event so engaging. She added that the Run’s ability to bring together so many different people renders it something business leaders should put on their radars as a potential team-building activity that demonstrates their appreciation for and recognition of their female employees’ unique mental health needs.

“When I started participating in the run a few years back, I was the executive director for the Kanata North Business Association,” said Sudds. “I know firsthand that participating in such an important cause isn’t just good business, but is also extremely important at a time when we hope to be coming out of a pandemic that has put a unique kind of pressure on women in the workplace and at home,” particularly as women are often disproportionately relied upon to provide their communities with emotional support in trying times.

Though the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women is meant to raise awareness about a rather serious topic, the event itself is always a fun one — a fact that has driven Fleury and Sudds to participate year-after-year, whether it be to see what creative t-shirts and signage teams will come up, or to hear the stories of those who have directly benefited from The Royal’s programming.

“The experience of the run itself — you see and meet people from all walks of life,” said Sudds. “Overall, it's just a very feel-good event, because you’re spending time with some like-minded people doing something good.”

Join the run today!

This year’s LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women will take place both in-person and online. The in-person portion of the event will take place June 5 at LeBreton Flats Park. Be part of this special event by registering your team here.