Race Weekend: Pembroke man to run half marathon in honor of his daughter

“People I’ve never met in my life are electronically transferring money, and then I hit $10,000. I literally got goosebumps and shed a few tears because I couldn’t believe it.”

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A Pembroke man laces up his running shoes to raise money for a local charity and to honor his daughter, who died last year of an accidental drug overdose.

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Steve Wood, who will run a half marathon next weekend as part of Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, is raising funds for the Robbie Dean Center, a charity with locations in Pembroke and Renfrew that provides advice and assistance to families struggling with disorders. of mental health and addictions. .

It’s a cause close to Wood’s heart. His own father committed suicide and he knows what it’s like to deal with depression. Running has provided him with an outlet to clear his head, and in 2020 Wood began raising money for the Robbie Dean Center when COVID-19 disrupted the center’s fundraising activities. He has carried on the tradition ever since, but this year his race has an added layer of importance.

Taylor Wood, Steve’s daughter, was 29 years old when she died. Her life and her death reflect issues of mental illness, addiction and a toxic drug supply that is wreaking havoc on families across Ontario.

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“Taylor was an amazing kid,” Wood said in an interview on Saturday. “She was full of life. She was funny and she loved to laugh”.

Taylor Wood, Steve's daughter, was 29 when she died last year from what he described as an accidental drug overdose.
Taylor Wood, Steve’s daughter, was 29 when she died last year from what he described as an accidental drug overdose. Steve Wood photo photo /Distribute

Steve and Taylor shared a love of heavy metal music and she lived a normal teenage life, she said, until the eighth grade, when bullying sent her spiraling into depression and anxiety.

He dropped out of school, held down a part-time job for a while, but then moved to Oshawa, where his depression seemed to worsen.

“She never got any help,” Steve said. “Every year it got worse and worse. I love my daughter, but there were times when we couldn’t really talk on the phone because I couldn’t relate to the life that she was living. You try to understand it, but you just can’t. I never could understand how you could just not go to school. It really led me to look into the mental health side, it wasn’t her fault. I was physically unable to go to school. She was so distraught that she couldn’t go. Now I understand, but not years ago.

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Taylor also entered an abusive relationship, Steve said, and was urged to try cocaine, which, unbeknownst to her, was laced with fentanyl, leading to a fatal overdose.

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid, and advocates have warned that it is increasingly finding its way into drugs in Ottawa and across Canada. Opioid overdoses were directly responsible for at least 127 deaths in Ottawa last year, Ottawa Public Health said. Ontario’s COVID-19 advisory board noted a significant increase in opioid-related harms, particularly fatal overdoses, during the pandemic. The board said Ontarians needed broader access to addiction, mental health and harm reduction services to combat the crisis.

The Robbie Dean Center was established to fill those gaps in areas where resources were not always available. Monique Yashinskie founded the center after her son, for whom the center is named, committed suicide in 2011. She was frustrated by the lack of support available in Renfrew County.

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The center offers counseling and a variety of support groups.

Last year, Wood raised more than $6,000. This year, she hoped to raise more, but said he had been overwhelmed by the support she had received so far. With the help of social media, he has already raised over $10,000, a new record for him.

“People I’ve never met in my life are electronically transferring money,” he said, “and then I hit $10,000. I literally got goosebumps and shed a few tears because I couldn’t believe it… People just responded to this in an amazing way.”

Wood recently visited the Robbie Dean Center and understood where the money was going and how it would be spent.

“He lit a bigger fire under me to make sure that place stays open,” he said.

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More than for money reasons, Wood says he’s also running to raise awareness. He wants families to know that the center exists and that they should reach out for help if they need it. He also wants to help combat the stigma around mental health issues.

“I want people to know, yes, my daughter died of an accidental overdose, but she didn’t mean to die,” she said. “This can happen to any family. There is that stigma attached to mental health. She was a normal teenager until, bang, this point. People really need to know that she can happen to anyone.”

Wood will lace up his running shoes for what he calls the Taylor Wood Memorial Run for Mental Health during Ottawa race weekend. He is accepting wire transfers or Paypal donations through his email address at stevieruns@hotmail.com.

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