Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.
“Tri for Amelia” is a fundraising event started by Chelsea Leblanc to raise awareness and donations for Amelia Rising’s counselling and sexual violence prevention education programs.
Leblanc says she is not a professionally trained athlete but did the 2019 North Bay triathlon and enjoyed the experience and wanted to see if she could do something for an organization that has helped her.
“I had been a client at Amelia Rising in 2019, I was going through a really hard time, and they really helped, and I realized how good of an organization Amelia Rising is and I also realized they need a lot of funding to provide the programs they offer,” says Leblanc. “I was looking for ways I could help, and I reached out to them to brainstorm some ways to fundraise.”
Leblanc said they were considering raising funds through the North Bay Triathlon but those talks halted when everything shut down in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I spoke to a friend and said let's just do our own Triathlon and still fundraise. It was a bit odd because I didn’t have the platform I have now through Canada Helps which assists people doing their own fundraising. Trying to coordinate and get people to go on the website and track our donations using a hashtag was a lot of work to set up. Plus, it was the pandemic and so I was not seeing as many people as I normally would, so social media was the big way I was trying to constantly promote it,” says Leblanc.
In 2020 Leblanc ran a triathlon alongside her friend Katelyn while her partner Eric and another friend, Tyler, helped with timing and distances.
“That assistance was really welcomed because when you’re at an organized event, there’s actual transition zones and markers helping you figure out your distance,” says Leblanc. “When I’m doing an open water swim, there’s no buoys so I have to figure out using my watch how far I’ve gone, and Eric will kayak alongside me to make sure there’s no boaters or anything near my swim path.”
In the following years, Leblanc’s friend Tyler ran the triathlon with her and the plan was once again to run it in conjunction with the North Bay Triathlon, but it hasn’t taken place since 2019 and in 2022 she did an Olympic distance triathlon in Corbeil, “And that’s where I’m going to do it again this year because I’m not going to be in town during this years North Bay Triathlon,” she says adding her event will take place on June 4th.
“In 2020 we raised almost $700 and the next year we raised $950 and last year it was close to $1500. This year my goal is $2000 and I’m trying to reach out to as many people as possible.”
Leblanc says, “When I tell people who the fundraiser is for, not many are aware of what Amelia Rising is or does. So, part of this is helping Amelia Rising become more prominent and a focal point for people in the community. We still have those stigmas toward people who look for help and that shouldn’t be the case. That was my biggest fear, and I didn’t say anything at all when I was younger. I didn’t want that notion of people thinking that was all I was, that I was a victim of this horrible thing, and I didn’t want anyone to know. My biggest fear now is that someone in North Bay or the surrounding area is going through something similar and hopefully they will see this, and it will give them the encouragement to reach out.”
Leblanc says it took her a long time to reach out and get help.
“It was 20 years of suppressing what had happened to me as a child and I just wanted some way to try and push the agenda for people to reach out. There is still that idea of victim blaming and it’s an unfortunate aspect for most trauma and abuse survivors who didn’t get the help they needed. I wish I had gone sooner and had the courage to go sooner and hopefully by talking about it more and drawing light to it then people will feel more comfortable to go and it will make more people know about Amelia Rising,” says Leblanc who says she found her way to Amelia Rising through an article in the local paper in North Bay.
“I was going through a rough patch; I was in a bad relationship, and I realized I was being re-traumatized, so I was lucky I came across that article. I want to focus on getting people to acknowledge those triggers and recognizing when they need additional help. Amelia Rising’s programs are really great. Even if you don’t go for one-on-one counselling, you can do emergency sessions. They have a 24-hour help line so that if you feel like you need to talk to someone, there is always someone there to talk to. And then they have group sessions where you don’t feel alone in what you’re going through.”
Leblanc also got involved with the “Take Back the Night” event, organized by Amelia Rising in September, and spoke about her experiences.
“I touched on the importance of being able to be your true self. It was around the time when a woman in the United States named Eliza Fletcher was murdered while she was out for an early morning run and I spoke about that and being able to feel safe and the concept of “Take Back the Night” is for women and non-binary people to feel safe when they are walking down the street no matter what time of day,” says Leblanc. “While running isn’t my favourite sport, I always feel better after I’ve done it, and I think a lot when I run so when I’m going through stressful times, or rough times, I’m glad I have that outlet.
Leblanc says as a trauma survivor it’s important to have an outlet.
“Physical activity and running are mine and that’s what made me want to try the triathlon in the first place,” she says. “In no way, shape or form does it replace counselling or therapy, but I think everyone has their different outlets, whether it’s running or something else.”
What makes Leblanc’s achievement remarkable is that she had never competed competitively in any of the three sports that make up a triathlon.
“I didn’t take swimming lessons until I was almost 30. I didn’t own a bike for the longest time. So, a lot of what I’ve done over the last few years has been learning as I go,” she says.
“The reason I’m doing it is because I hope to inspire people, that they can do something. When my life was falling apart in 2015, I swam across Bradley’s Bay which is on Remi Lake near Kapuskasing and I had never swam that far in my entire life. I was at such a bad spot and realized that that accomplishment made me feel so much better. I felt like I was able to do something and have control of something.”
Leblanc says the triathlon is the perfect trifecta of how far you can push yourself physically and mentally.
“That’s part of overcoming trauma as well because there are those hard times where you’re trying to really think about how you’re going to get through it. I find the physical and mental push to get yourself through that uncomfortable feeling is going to get you back to that point of feeling like a whole person again. A Triathlon is very trying. You’re trying to be your best self, and you’re always trying to do better.”
“Alex is great at helping me with the sports psychology aspect because there are times when I’m running or swimming and you can really get into your head when instead, you should just be focusing on that next kilometre. You have to have methods you use to get yourself to that point,” says Leblanc.
“Alex has helped me develop a plan to improve my times. It’s one of the two goals I have for doing this; fundraising and improving on my times. $2,000 still isn’t enough for Amelia Rising to get what they need and pay for its staff, but having those programs available is important. When I first reached out to them, the wait list for some of their programs was between 3-4 months and it’s probably longer now because there have been a lot of people who have been reaching out because of what they might have experienced during the pandemic.”
To help Leblanc in her fundraising efforts, visit Canadahelps.org.
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