By Jesse Laufer
Kelly Tilsley felt horrible in 2011 when he heard Kids Help Phone was thinking of cancelling Walk So Kids Can Talk in Victoria.
Kids Help Phone, which started in 1989, provides counselling and information services for young people across Canada and has answered more than 70 million calls from kids across Canada.
It’s a resource Tilsley, who was bullied growing up, wished he had access to. So, after volunteering with the walk in 2008 and 2009, he started chairing it in 2011 to keep it moving.
“I felt kind of like I’m taking this on myself even though I have a huge organization around me,” said Tilsley, a Victoria resident. “I don’t want to make (raise) just $20,000, I want to make $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000.”
When Tilsley first got involved with Walk So Kids Can Talk, the annual event was bringing in $2,000. But every year the cost to run the event didn’t leaving much left over to go towards the cause. Since he took over as chair, more money has been raised in Victoria year after year, bringing in roughly $20,000 annually.
Tilsley said he’s privileged just to be a part of the organization.
Now, his efforts are being recognized. For the last two years he’s been nominated for Kids Help Phone’s volunteer of the year award.
This year’s fun five kilometre walk takes place at Braefoot Elementary School (1440 Harrop Rd.) Sunday May 1, at 11 a.m. Last year’s walk drew roughly 250 people, but Tilsley hopes to beat that this year.
But if there’s one thing Tilsley hopes to increase this year more than any other, it’s awareness. Especially since more people are finally talking about bullying and mental health.
“You can just say ‘hey bullying someone’s not good’. We got to make sure they (kids) can call someone and get the help they need,” he explained, noting all the volunteers behind a phone are also trained counsellors.
Kids Help Phone has also expanded digitally, providing on the go discrete help 24-7 through their Always There app.
Check out kidshelpphone.ca for more information on services or ways to get involved.