Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hockey coach and ball hockey competitor Ashley Gilbank talks about Skate4Life

1: SSSS: Hayley Wickenheiser introduced you to the Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team. Of note, they made a donation of $1000. What was the experience like of meeting the team?

Gilbank: The experience was amazing. They came off the ice the coaches went in the dressing room and gave a small speech and then they pulled me right in the dressing room. I was shocked how quickly they welcomed me. I was able to go in and talk a little about S4L and the girls listened and then asked me a lot of questions. It was really neat to be able to share my experiences with such an elite level of women's hockey players. Ever since I was a little, it was always my dream to play university hockey and I was in awe of every single one of them. Not to mention I was speaking to Danielle Goyette and Hayley Wickenheiser - two future hall of famers and pioneers of women's hockey. It was amazing to have their support. They also blew me away when they donated $1,000. It literally was such a shock... not only because it was 1,000$ but also because I was striving hard to reach $10,000 and they had just brought me so close that I knew at that moment I really could hit $10,000 by the end of my journey.

2: SSSS: What was your biggest highlight in Ontario?

Gilbank: Now that is a tough one to answer as Ontario was 45 days long... longer than the first 5 provinces combined... so it was very eventful... I think getting hit by the transport is a memory that will always stick out but I would say my absolute biggest highlight would be a tie between the Hastings event and Pontypool. I kind of tie those two memories together as they happened so close to each and they both surprised me with how supportive they were... Hastings was a small country town with a population of 1,500 that raised $1,500 and Pontypool population 1,500 raised $1200. In Hastings the whole town came out to support me and as I skated into Pontypool I was able to stop at the Spearing farm and pay tribute to Rachel and her family. Those two days are unforgettable.

2A: SSSS: What was your biggest highlight in Alberta?

Gilbank: It’s hard to pick just one... When I think of Alberta I think of hockey - touring the Rexall Center and the Saddledome, watching team Canada practice and meeting some of the girls but I would have to say skating into the mountains in Canmore was something I will never forget. It was like someone had dropped a big green screen in front of me. It was one of the easiest skating days as I was so distracted by the scenery. I think Pierre had me pull over every km to take a picture!

3: SSSS: On the Skate4Life facebook page, you mentioned that the mother of your late friend was in BC to greet you. What was it like to see her there?

Gilbank: She surprised me... I had no idea she was coming to see me end the journey. Her and a few of Rachel’s closest friends came out the eve of my last skating day and surprised me as Pierre, my dad and I were eating our dinner at Boston Pizza in Victoria. I can probably say to this day that is the most surprised I had ever been in my life. I didn't realize that this journey had meant so much to them and that they were following me every step of the way. I also can't really explain to you what it was like to have them finish with me. The experience was that much more meaningful to me and my husband.

4: SSSS:  As you reached the end of your journey in Victoria, what were the emotions that you felt?

Gilbank: Actually the last few days I felt very numb. I was worried about finishing the journey. The night before we finished, when Sandy Spearing showed up, that changed everything.  To explain what I mean, I have a quote of my journal entry I wrote that night.
"Today I had to write. It is the last night of my journey. It is amazing to see how far I have come although to me I wasn't happy. I wasn't sad, I wasn't really anything. I was numb. -And I was scared to finish numb. I didn't want to look back on this day and regret it. I don't have that fear anymore. I feel fulfilled like tonight was just what I needed. The weight has been lifted."

5: SSSS:  After your journey finished, there was a tragic case of teen suicide in BC. What do you feel that we can do as a society to prevent such a horrible loss?

Gilbank: The Amanda Todd suicide actually happened while we were in Vancouver. It was the same day I was speaking at a suicide prevention seminar at the BC Children’s Hospital. I feel very bad for the Todd family. I know what the Spearing's went through, and are going through and I know that is happening again with the Todd Family. I also know the sad truth that this will not be the last suicide victim in our country. It was reported to me not long ago that a boy had died in my hometown from suicide. Only 20 years old.

My opinions are very blunt when it comes to what we can do as a society and I am not afraid to share them. I believe that the media needs to take responsibility for how they report suicides. I believe they need to be more proactive in sharing help services in their reports whether it’s an article, news cast, radio broadcast etc. Teens/Adults/teachers/everyone needs to know what they can do or where they can turn.

After Amanda Todd’s death there were several facebook pages created and petitions signed against bullying but did 1 student go up to their teacher and ask them if they were trained in how to deal with suicidal teens? Or even better did they demand the school must implement policies to get the teachers trained?

Did anyone donate to their local mental health facility or start educating themselves on suicidal signs or how to cope? Or did they just like a Facebook group? ...... There are so many ways we can change but the biggest way we can prevent these from happening is to educate ourselves, our kids, our society and end the stigma that surrounds mental health. There is help out there and we need to make sure everyone needs to know how to access that help.

6: SSSS: Once you have a well deserved rest, what is your next step in the fight for mental health causes?

Gilbank: The first thing I am working on is registering Skate 4 Life as a registered charity... We are also setting up a Gala next spring, plus we are working on a few ways to tell my story and we will take it from there. There will be a lot of exciting things to look forward to from Skate 4 Life.

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