Wounded Warriors runner Chris Loran making his way to the Qualium Beach Branch 76 Legion on Friday

Wounded Warriors runner Chris Loran making his way to the Qualium Beach Branch 76 Legion on Friday

Wounded Warrior Run B.C. run through Parksville Qualicum Beach

The run started in Port Hardy on Feb. 20, ended in Victoria on Feb. 26

It’s communities like Bowser, Qualicum Beach and Parksville that give fuel to the Wounded Warrior Run B.C. runners, said Allan Kobayashi.

Wounded Warrior Run B.C. is a non-profit organization that helps Canadian Forces members, serving and retired who have been wounded or injured in their service to Canada. They help find therapeutic programs and solutions for military men and women in need. Currently, their primary focus is on mental health and, particularly, the staggering impact of PTSD and Operational Stress Injuries.

Kobayashi, the co-founder and director of Wounded Warrior Run B.C., said these support communities throughout the Island are empowering.

“It’s the smallest communities with the biggest hearts and they understand what community means,” said Kobayashi, adding a woman in Bowser came forward all on her own and wrote them a cheque for $150.

Kobayashi said the B.C. run started with four runners four years ago when he and Dan Bodden decided they were going to run the length of the Island. Kobayashi said they found a couple of other friends to help shorten the time and distances of each run.

“We found more people that understood, that could relate, had friends, family and saw me and understood what I went through. Then it just organically happened from that,” Kobayashi said.

Wounded Warrior Run B.C. is a relay-style run composed of six runners. This year’s relay team includes current serving military members, reservists, veterans, First Nations and non-military members.

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Wounded Warriors runner Chris Loran making his way to the Qualium Beach Branch 76 Legion on Friday, Feb. 24. The run started Feb. 20 in Port Hardy and finished Sunday, Feb. 26 in Victoria.          — Lauren Collins photo

Chris Loran, the relay’s radio roadie, ran part way from Bowser to Qualicum Beach. Loran said nothing can prepare a runner for how emotional it’s going to be, especially in the rural communities.

“Raising money for the cause is great, but just using our little soapbox to kind of get the message out there, tell people to talk about PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because it doesn’t help just bottling it up,” Loran said.

Kobayashi said in the four years the run has been going on, people have become more knowledgeable about PTSD.

“When we said ‘PTSD’, people did the sideways look and didn’t quite understand. Of course now, when I say PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, people are like, ‘I know,’ ‘I have,’ ‘I have a family member,’ and we even have people coming up and giving us hugs,” Kobayashi said.

“I think there is this overwhelming peace, this acceptance, that is starting to happen whereas before, there was not. There was still that stigma, that stigma-led fear, that (created) that boundary.”

The Wounded Warrior run started in Port Hardy on Feb. 20 and ended Sunday in Victoria. To date, Kobayashi said, the organization has raised at least $100,000.

For more information, visit www.woundedwarriorrunbc.com.