Opinion Editorial

Some light during these dark days

 The Packet & Times

In recent days, you could be excused for feeling as if we live in a world where hate trumps love. Scenes of swarming Nazis carrying torches, unrest in the streets, red-hot tempers being pushed to the boiling point, burning flags, bloodied faces, dead bodies — we are a collective, it seems, on the precipice of a steep and unforgiving cliff where one more shove could lead to chaos.

In dark days like these, it’s important to have some perspective. To put it in the simplest terms possible, it’s vital to remember good people dramatically outnumber bad people. We just don’t often hear about the good people, the people who quietly and selflessly go about making the world a better place.

Zach Hofer is one of the good guys. The 13-year-old Barrie boy is living proof one person can choose to make a positive impact on his community — that one person can change the world.

Hofer decided he wanted to do something to raise money for the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s planned eight-bed child and youth inpatient mental-health unit. So, he decided to run, walk and bike from Barrie to Ottawa to raise money to support the new facility.

“I have seen mental-health issues in my family and in classmates, and I wanted to do something about it,” said Hofer, who made a stop in Orillia this week to promote his campaign, Zach Makes Tracks. He plans to make many similar stops on his journey as he tries to raise awareness about youth mental-health issues and add to his growing fundraising total.

Hofer’s initial fundraising goal was $10,000. He has already collected almost $51,000 — something Kaila Willison-Cole described as “very inspirational.” Willison-Cole, 15, was at the Orillia Youth Centre Tuesday when Hofer visited to promote his efforts.

“It opens your eyes to the fact that mental health doesn’t get much attention,” said Willison-Cole. “It’s amazing he can do something like this being as little as he is. When adults do something like this, we feel they don’t know exactly how we feel …” said Willison-Cole. “Youth should be doing things like this more often. It may be harder for us, but it’s more impactful.”

It’s amazing to think Hofer has been thinking about this initiative for more than two years. The charismatic youth began talking about running across Canada like Terry Fox when he was 10. His parents understood this was no passing craze, but a deeply held desire, and they’ve done everything possible to help their son realize his dream.

The active youth, who enjoys basketball, running and lacrosse, will have his mettle tested as he attempts to reach Ottawa by Sept. 10. Whenever he gets tired, he reminds himself why he’s doing this: “I know I can’t stop,” he said. “We have a deadline we have to make — it’s World Suicide Prevention Day.”

So, as our world teeters and leans toward chaos, it’s heartwarming to take a moment to appreciate people like Zach Hofer. He is an inspiration. Hopefully, his spirit and his goodness will spark a wildfire of decency and kindness that spreads across our community, throughout our country and over our borders and into all places where darkness is threatening.

To learn more, visit zachmakestracks.ca.

— The Packet & Times

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