© Andrew Wagstaff - TC Media
Olympic medalist Clara Hughes received a tremendous reception during a visit to Spring Street Academy on Monday as part of Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk, a national cycling tour to raise mental health awareness.
Decorated Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes brought Clara’s Big Ride to Nova Scotia April 14, making Amherst the first stop in the province as part og her national cycling tour for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, raising awareness, acceptance and action on mental health issues.
Hughes appeared quite touched by the huge reception at the Amherst school, as she entered the gymnasium decorated with student artwork for the occasion. Every student drew a picture for the event, creating a wall of art, while large replicas of her six Olympic medals provided a backdrop for her as she spoke, along with a portrait painted by teacher Daren White, whose efforts brought Hughes to Amherst.
“Thank you to every single student for showing us what is possible,” she said. “You have inspired this whole Big Ride team to understand clearly that we can do more, and we can be better.”
Hughes also commended the students for the $776 they raised April 11 for Cumberland Mental Health through a stationary bike-riding event. Representatives from Cumberland Mental Health were on hand to receive the cheque.
She said such efforts embody the Big Ride campaign, which began March 14 in Toronto, and will make a round-trip around the country covering more than 12,000 km before arriving in Ottawa on Canada Day.
“What you have done is contribute to somebody who might be suffering in silence and feeling pretty sad,” she said. “You’re going to give them some hope, and you’re going to let them know they are not alone. That is what this ride is all about.”
While the Amherst stop was brief, Hughes said it was “an absolute gift,” and would provide a tailwind as they make their way onward to Truro.
“I’ll never, ever forget this,” she said. “I know I’m not alone in this. You guys have been with me every single kilometer of the way, and it’s beautiful. Thank you so much.”
A student choir sang I Believe I Can Fly as Hughes, wearing a T-shirt presented to her by the students carrying the slogan “Keep Moving Forward,” made her exit, heading off on her bicycle to more cheers and honking horns from outside the school and along Spring Street and Church Street. Joining her team for the day was White, an opportunity principal Aaron Stubbert was glad to make possible in appreciation for everything the teacher has done within and outside the classroom.
The principal described the visit as “phenomenal.”
“We’re a school that really wants to make a difference, especially with mental illness, which we see in our schools,” said Stubbert. “Any way we can promote and help Clara, we’re on board.”