Hun­dreds walk in ‘A Mile in His Shoes’

Event held to hon­our Cpl. Trevor O’keefe, first re­spon­ders; raises funds, aware­ness for men­tal health

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JONATHAN PAR­SONS

Hun­dreds of peo­ple walked in Clarenville Wed­nes­day to com­mem­o­rate Cpl. Trevor O’keefe, who died by sui­cide Sept. 11, and to raise funds and aware­ness to­wards PTSD, sui­cide preven­tion, and men­tal health.

When Donna Han­cock first be­gan to or­ga­nize a me­mo­rial walk to re­mem­ber Cpl. Trevor O’keefe, she says she never be­lieved it would get this much sup­port.

“It’s just so over­whelm­ing, the peo­ple that came on board,” an emo­tional Han­cock told The Packet.

She couldn’t hold back her tears as she thanked ev­ery­one for help­ing her with this cause.

Han­cock first de­cided to hon­our O’keefe — who passed away last month af­ter suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD) — be­cause his sup­port while serv­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer in Clarenville more than a decade ago helped her when she needed it most.

The me­mo­rial walk, called “A Mile in His Shoes,” which went ahead Wed­nes­day — one month af­ter O’keefe’s death — also hon­oured all first re­spon­ders who serve their com­mu­ni­ties, and rec­og­nizes the toll their work takes on their men­tal health.

“What they face on a day-to­day ba­sis we can never know,” said Han­cock as she ad­dressed the crowd be­fore the walk from Kent Build­ing Sup­plies to the Clarenville RCMP de­tach­ment.

“We need to stand to­gether and have their backs be­cause they al­ways have ours.”

Many mem­bers of Cpl. O’keefe’s fam­ily came to Clarenville for the event.

Cpl. O’keefe’s fam­ily at­tends walk

Trevor’s fa­ther, Perry, told the Packet it took some­one like Donna, with un­told courage, to be able to or­ga­nize such an event.

“When I looked out at the crowd here, (it was) over­whelm­ing,” he said.

When Donna spoke about the im­por­tant role Trevor played in her life, Perry says it didn’t sur­prise him.

“When I look and see the let­ters that we’ve got­ten and the peo­ple that have come to me and said what Trevor had done for them — he just didn’t go to the scene of an ac­ci­dent, he stayed there to com­fort who­ever was in stress there. “(He’s) a truly spe­cial per­son.” Perry says his only son is gone — but through sup­port like the me­mo­rial walk, he will live on for­ever.

“In Trevor’s case, when he saw all these things in his life­time, there was guys stand­ing by him and watch­ing the same thing hap­pen. Trevor is gone but it’s been brought to the fore­front.

“And let’s not stop there … Let’s do what­ever we can.”

He says with all the sup­port for the Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion, there are cer­tainly many who will ben­e­fit.

Im­por­tant for first re­spon­ders to have sup­port

As an RCMP of­fi­cer in Clarenville, Const. Cory He­meon told the Packet the rea­son for the walk was un­der sad cir­cum­stances. But he hopes the pos­i­tive mes­sage of get­ting first re­spon­ders — and all mem­bers of pub­lic — help when they need it got through.

“If you’re suf­fer­ing from any type of men­tal ill­ness, it can af­fect any­body, at any­time, at any point in their life. It’s im­por­tant to have sup­port,” said He­meon. “And you see the sup­port that’s here to­day.”

He says many first re­spon­ders like Cpl. O’keefe have a great im­pact on their com­mu­ni­ties, and it’s im­por­tant to make sure peo­ple don’t suf­fer in si­lence.

Hop­ing to be the first walk of many

Han­cock thanked ev­ery­one who sup­ported the event, in­clud­ing the first re­spon­ders, O’keefe’s fam­ily, her fam­ily, friends and co-work­ers, and busi­nesses that do­nated. She plans to raise even more aware­ness in the fu­ture, and hopes to hold the walk an­nu­ally — next year in Clarenville and St. John’s, and in more com­mu­ni­ties each year.

Han­cock says O’keefe’s smile once helped her through some of the most dif­fi­cult times in her life. She be­lieves he was still smil­ing down as they com­mu­nity came to sup­port first re­spon­ders and raise aware­ness and funds for men­tal health.

JONATHAN PAR­SONS/THE PACKET

Hun­dreds gath­ered in Clarenville Wed­nes­day for the first an­nual ‘A Mile in His Shoes’ walk. The event was held in mem­ory of RCMP Cpl. Trevor O’keefe, who died last month, and other first re­spon­ders who face PTSD and other men­tal health chal­lenges. The event also raised funds for and spread aware­ness of men­tal health is­sues.

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