They may seem too young to have the weight of the world on their shoulders, but Ottawa daycare teacher Jeanick Cleroux and her work associates walked for the futures of the children they know yesterday.
“We’re very passionate about children … so we try to support anything that has to do with children,” said Cleroux, one of 450 people who took part in the Walk for Kids Help Phone.
But according to Morah MacDonald, Kids Help Phone co-ordinator for eastern Ontario, children as young as five years old contact Kids Help Phone about issues they experience at home and at school.
For the last 21 years, young people have been calling, and in more recent years, turning to Kids Help Phone online for help with problems including mental health issues, eating disorders, bullying and cyber bullying, family issues and to ask questions about drugs, sex and abuse.
“Twenty-five per cent of the kids that are calling are calling in with mental-health related issues,” said walk chair Sandy Clement. “Where we used to see more peer issues and family issues, now we’re seeing more of the mental health issues.”
Yesterday, participants raised $135,000 through the walk. The event is the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, making up about 30 per cent of the organization’s overall budget.
Last year, 2.2 million kids contacted Kids Help Phone by phone or through the website, said MacDonald. Last year, 100,000 of those calls came from the Ottawa area.
“The need is going up and up every year,” said MacDonald. “That’s why every dollar that we raise is so important. “For every kid that calls, there are approximately 70 (kids) that are too shy or nervous,” she said. “So they go online and access our web services.”
Walk participant Leslie DiPietrantonio has been doing the walk for years.
“I think it’s a great cause,” she said. “I have two little kids, and I want to make sure they get help if needed.”