London, Ont. – Paulie O’Byrne’s life changed five years ago — he was sexually assaulted by a minor hockey coach.
“I (then) turned to addiction. I’ve had three suicide attempts,” O’Byrne said. “Last year at this time, I was living in my car drinking whiskey for breakfast.”
Today, O’Byrne is sober and has built a support network that includes former NHL star and sexual abuse victim Theo Fleury. The network helped O’Byrne get his life back on track, and he’s ready to help others do the same.
“I decided I needed to do something for guys like me,” the 26-year-old Londoner said. “I’m a hockey guy – I’m going to stickhandle a hockey ball from the west coast to the east coast.”
O’Byrne plans to begin his journey in June by walking, jogging and inline skating across the country, covering 50 kilometres each day. He hopes to be in Newfoundland by the end of September.
Besides raising awareness about the number of males who are sexually abused and removing the stigma attached with being a victim, O’Byrne wants to raise money for programs and treatment centres.
All proceeds will go to the Theo Fleury Society for Abused Men.
“I want to do as much as I can to raise $5 million,” O’Byrne said. “Five dollars from a million Canadians.”