Kamloops mental health advocate on last leg of cross-country bike tour

Tour for trauma pedals on

It's been just over a year since Marlene Hibbs left Kamloops with nothing but her bike and a bag of clothing and food.

On May 24, 2019, the local resident began pedalling across the country while simultaneously advocating for better mental health supports for all Canadians. Hibbs was driven by personal experience, having struggled with an eating disorder for many years.

After hitting pause on the bike tour for a few months (she was injured and then COVID-19 hit), Hibbs is back on the road. She's aiming to reach the Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland, North America's most easterly point, in about seven weeks.

"I didn't know if I'd be able to finish," Hibbs says during a June 27 phone interview with Castanet, from Sorel-Tracy, QC. "But I thought it was very important to finish. Once things warmed up a bit and I noticed (COVID-19) regulations were relaxing, I knew I could do it."

Over the last year Hibbs has been collecting stories of trauma from people she's met along the way. She has 40 so far and intends to turn them into a book once she's back in the River City.

Her original plan was to take those stories and have a sit-down meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Asked if that's still the case, Hibbs says "that's always a possibility."

Her journey would not be possible without the kindness of strangers, she says. Most recently, her bike was serviced by a shop in Sorel-Tracy free of charge. They also gave her new tires.

When she got a flat tire after leaving Montreal, a woman Hibbs had been talking to online came and got her.

"She came back from Montreal and collected me, and her aunt let me stay at her house. She was a really sweet lady. She packed me a lunch and gave me some sandwiches and a pair of socks. ... I'm blown away by the hospitality here."

Hibbs has long said she's doing the ride for her two children, who she talks to regularly.

"I miss them. This has been one of the hardest times of my life but one of the best times of my life," she says, adding she'll be home by year's end. (She'll be driving back to Kamloops.)

"I want to set a strong example for them and this is my way of doing it. I hope they will appreciate it. I hope they know it's important to stand up for what you believe in."

For more information about the bike ride, visit understandingtrauma.ca.

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