This article is sponsored by the Royal Ottawa Foundation.
Jill Skinner, chair of the Royal Ottawa Foundation’s fundraising committee for the 2022 LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women, is, ironically, not a runner. Despite her years of service with the event — aimed at raising money and awareness for women’s mental health and programming at The Royal — she has never taken great pleasure in the act of running for the sake of running.
For her, the spirit of Run for Women comes not just from the physical act, but from the conversations surrounding mental health, it inspires.
One of her most poignant memories of this harkens back to her days as the deputy police chief at the Ottawa Police Service. She was invited to the Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternate School for young women, and thinking she was there as a speaker, came dressed in full uniform. When she arrived, she learned that she was to participate in a run for women’s mental health in 35-degree weather. Nevertheless, she stuck with it and joined the students.
“When we got back to the school, the conversations that we were able to have as a result of that physical event, that was really why we were there — to talk about mental wellness,” said Skinner, smiling. “To hear those girls talk about their good and bad days, the tools that they use now to address their own mental wellness, it really made me realize that I needed to be more involved, and that was actually one of the precursors for me to really get engaged with the run.”
Making a difference in the community
As chair of the fundraising committee for 2022, Skinner hopes to keep those conversations going.
The 2022 LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women is looking to raise over $500,000 through a hybrid event 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 just wouldn’t work.
“I was involved with policing for 37 years, and one of the biggest things policing deals with is mental health, both externally and internally,” said Skinner. “As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be everything, to be good wives, mothers and employees — to be a kind of ‘super women.’
“We need events (like the Run for Women) to have these kinds of conversations to lead people to understand that this isn’t necessary.”
In order to meet The Royal’s fundraising goal, the LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women will need to garner at least 6,000 participants in 2022. Organizers are looking for people to take on roles as team captains to encourage people within their communities to participate — either virtually or in-person. Skinner said the committee is especially looking to corporate organizations to help them reach their goal.
“This is a great opportunity for businesses to really support their people, and to show their women employees that they care about their mental wellness, especially when it might have suffered during the pandemic,” she said. “COVID-19 has had a huge impact on our ability to come together, and the connection that we can get from an event like this is tremendous.”
The LOVE YOU by Shoppers Drug Mart™ Run for Women, added Skinner, is a way for businesses to check in with their employees — something they should be doing “as often as possible” — while participating in something fun, surrounded by people who are passionate about an important cause.
“This is a way for us to create a better community,” she said, “and it truly doesn’t get better than that.”
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 5th at LeBreton Flats Park. Be part of this special event by registering your team here.