Youth leaders empowered to create mental health change with Scotiabank Charity Challenge

Charity partner will participate in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 21.’s presence in the endurance community underscores an important link between physical activity and mental health for its many youth leaders across Canada.

The Canadian charity “aimed at empowering youth to revolutionize mental health”, has been strongly partnered with various initiatives in the endurance sports world almost since its inception. Recognizing the important relationship between physical activity and mental health, the charity is involved in several large sporting events across the country — including the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Jesse Hayman, director of development and communications, says this identity with sports wasn’t exactly planned from the start for, but it has certainly helped the charity spread its message and garner more reach.

“Originally, we fell into it,” he explains. “Our charity’s signature fundraiser, the Jack Ride started after our founders Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington lost their son Jack to suicide in his first year at Queens University. Two things happened shortly after, Eric and Sandra started (called the Jack Project at that point) and a few family friends got together to ride in memory of Jack. It wasn’t originally a fundraiser, it was just to get some close friends and family together to raise awareness and remember Jack. Since then, the Jack Ride has become a premiere community ride in Canada – it’s a really special event. Last year we had 965 riders raise over $900,000. It has a remarkable atmosphere and raises a significant portion of our funds each year. Because of the success of the Jack Ride, we’ve continued to bring people together through sports.” developed a strong relationship with Scotiabank through the Jack Ride, who have been supportive of the event from its start. Through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge — a program that “unites the spirit of runners with a unique fundraising program to help create a stronger future for young people and build vibrant communities” – became involved in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

“The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was another way for us to work closer with Scotiabank for youth mental health,” Hayman explains. “We put our first team together for the marathon last year and the runners had an amazing time, while also raising significant funds. It’s an easy way for us to get our community together for a really fun day, while also doing good for youth mental health.”

An an organization so focused on youth in the community, Hayman says that functions primarily through chapters across the country so that the community reach is felt on a grassroots level. There are 2,500 young leaders working across Canada to identify and dismantle barriers to positive mental health. They are educating their peers through Jack Talks, making change locally through Jack Chapters and amplifying the impact they’re making through Jack Summits. They advocate for systems level change locally and nationally.

“We’re making as much noise as we can to ensure more young leaders get involved, join the movement and start making change in their communities,” Hayman says. “We want to ensure that leaders in Canada prioritize youth mental health as much as we do.”

Hayman and the team are excited for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, and hope to raise $10,000 through fundraising efforts at the race.

“The more runners we can have out running whatever distance works for them, the better,” says Hayman. “It’s so much fun, we just want as many people to be part of it as possible. Hopefully we’ll also look good and make sure people are asking questions with our mental health advocate t-shirts. From there, maybe they’ll look into and join the movement. Young people are doing remarkable work for youth mental health through, the more runners we have out…the more awareness we raise for the work that’s happening across Canada.”

The organization is especially proud of one runner and youth leader who has set his own personal challenge for fundraising through running this year. Jacob Halloran of Nova Scotia is a passionate runner who uses the sport as a self care tool to help his own mental health. He has been a network representative, a Jack Talk speaker and Jack Chapter leader.

“This year he ran in the Boston and London Marathons,” says Hayman. “He created his own fundraising campaign and decided to match $3000 of the funds he raised with his own money. Pretty incredible for anyone to do, especially a student!”

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