Innisfail woman plans very long walk to raise awareness about mental health

She will offer message of hope to communities along the way

Tara Laidlaw plans to walk over 3,000 kilometres this summer to help others, like herself, who fight mental illness.

A woman who struggles with depression will bring her message of hope to dozens of communities this summer — by walking 3,289 kms from Innisfail to Austin, Texas.

Tara Laidlaw, 32, has had depression all her life. She also had postpartum depression after both her daughter and son, now 9 and 5, were born, she said Friday.

It wasn’t until after her son was diagnosed with a serious health issue that she was diagnosed with depression, about four years ago. To cope with everything, she began to walk.

Now she frequently walks from home in Innisfail to Red Deer, and back, to Olds, as far as Stettler once, and even Rocky Mountain House. She said she feels at peace, and with nature, when walking.

Laidlaw said that in a roundabout way, her faith in God led her to the Always Keep Fighting Foundation, a mental health support group on Facebook launched by Supernatural star Jared Padalecki, who also fights depression.

While she has a lot of professional support from her illness, as well as from friends, “They’re not always accessible 24-7. The foundation is, because it’s online.” “It has honestly saved my life numerous times.”

She was challenged by her therapist to figure out what made her happy besides her children, home and husband. About 18 months ago she realized that walking and Always Keep Fighting made her happy, and that’s how she decided to walk to Texas, where Always Keep Fighting is based.

She will raise funds along the way for the foundation. But she will also speak in many communities along the way about her personal fight. So far 51 of 71 communities have asked her to speak. Early along in her trip she will be speaking at the Rosebud Theatre in Torrington.

“I want to help as many people as I can, whether that help is through telling my story, which is uncomfortable and awkward and uneasy for me, but I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

Realizing she wasn’t a public speaker, Laidlaw joined Alberta Skytalkers Toastmasters in Innisfail. The organization has been very supportive. “Apparently I’m doing really well,” a bubbly Laidlaw said.

She has been on a treadmill, training, and has team of people, ranging from personal trainers to nutritionists, helping her prepare for the 74-day walk that kicks off on June 24, and ends in Austin on Sept. 5.

She also hopes to break a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous walk by a woman. Her walk is titled Woman Walking. There will be an RV accompanying her.

On April 1, a 37-vendor market takes place at Innisfail United Church to help raise funds towards the $5,000 she needs to do the walk. There’s also a gala on June 10 at the Innisfail Legion. More information is available on her Facebook page Woman Walking for Always Keep Fighting.

Her online funding page is at gofundme.com/womanwalking. Laidlaw can be contacted by phone at 403-391-8244, or by email at tarabreault@hotmail.com

barr@bprda.wpengine.com

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