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Community Strong Festival on this weekend at Canal District

Algoma Family Services is partnering with the YMCA to offer a variety of races and family activities

This weekend’s forecast is looking warm and sunny, which is great news for Algoma Family Services who are gearing up for their first-ever Community Strong Festival.

The AFS Foundation will be partnering with the Sault Ste. Marie YMCA to offer participants the chance to take part in a variety of activities and races at the Canal District on Huron Street.

The weekend-long event includes a marathon, half-marathon, 10 km, as well as a 5 km colour run. A BP 61 km run will also be available for those ready to test their abilities

Sonny Spina, the chair of the AFS Foundation, says collaborative efforts with the YMCA is incredibly beneficial in supporting the community’s physical and mental health and wellness initiatives.

“We recognize the importance of strategic partnerships to move forward,” he says. “We recognize that a lot of times we’re helping to service the same individuals within our community so we can find a better way to provide services to them by partnering together.”

The idea to put the festival together was sparked last year when Spina organized a smaller, half-marathon event in honour of Brett Provenzano. In the summer of 2010 Sonny Spina, Gail Provenzano and the Provenzano family met when Gail’s son, 15-year-old Brett lost his life after a brief struggle with his own mental health. 

Provenzano’s mom reached out to Spina with the marathon idea to help raise funds for mental health initiatives through AFS, which led to this year’s endeavour.

Spina explains there are a lack of doctors in town to provide mental health assessments, which impacts the ability for people to enter treatment programs. He says a fundraiser like this one will help with the skyrocketing costs of assessments and services.

“There’s a huge backlog of kids waiting for an assessment,” he says. “COVID made it so much worse, and the numbers exploded on that waiting list.”

While the waitlists have been challenging to manage, Spina says the community is doing a much better job talking about mental health and recognizing there are services out there.

“We want to help reduce the stigma, help increase the conversation, and help give people an outlet where people can go and find the resources they need,” he says. “The funds are incredibly important, but the larger goal is the conversation.

The event will consist of a variety of races over the course of the weekend as well as many family activities including a marathon, half-marathon, 10km, 5km colour run, and for those ready to test their abilities at BP61km run on June 25th-26th, 2022 at the Canal District.

Runners are asked to arrive before their start times.

For more information, or to register for a race, visit here.