Mental health is the string that has brought former NHLer Theo Fleury to Kelowna.
Famous for his accomplishments on the ice, including a Stanley Cup victory, an Olympic gold medal and his enthusiastic goal celebrations, he has since become better known for his advocacy work around mental health, sharing his own story about the sexual abuse he suffered as a junior hockey player by a coach.
“It’s more than creating awareness now, it’s getting people thinking about healing, thinking about recovering and maybe trying a holistic approach to mental illness and addiction,” said Fleury.
Previously reaching for drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma, Fleury now reaches for a microphone, finding his medicine in helping others.
“I spent the majority of my life just coping on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “In order to suppress the emotional pain and suffering … and helping other people has helped me heal myself.”
Fleury’s visit is a hope to inspire others to reach out for help while raising funds for a program that helps the provinces’ first responders overcome work-related PTSD. The B.C. First Responder Resiliency Program started in 2017 and has since helped 170 people.
“We have helped every single one of those people transform their life from going down a really dark path to finding hope realizing they are not alone and there is hope,” said Steve Farina, B.C. Professional Firefighters Association.
But the program is running into financial trouble and won’t be able to allow first responders to come free of charge for much longer, that is why they are hosting someone as inspiring as Fleury at the Kelowna Community Theatre, to keep the program free and accessible to all first responders.
“These types of programs are allowing my crews to deal with a lot of the challenges they face on a day to day basis,” said Travis Whiting, Kelowna Fire Chief.