Breaking the Silence Awareness Ride will honour Sarah Donovan

By Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post

Posted on Thursday September 5, 2019

The aim of the Breaking the Silence annual Awareness Ride through the Valley is to help combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.

This year, the ride is in honour of Sarah Donovan with proceeds raised from the Sept. 14 event going towards the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre (RDFCC). Donovan passed away on May 24 at the age of 17, and organizers saw the ride as a good way to honour her memory.

“We contacted the family,” said Monique Yashinskie, RDFCC Executive Director, “and they were really happy to support this event to honour Sarah.”

These types of fundraisers are crucial for the RDFCC as they receive few government grants. Every penny raised allows them to help people, and the need is growing in the community with a greater number of clients utilitizing the centre.

“In the last year, in the whole year total, we’ve seen 436 new people,” said Yashinskie.”Now it’s just August and we are already at 380 (new people) so we are going to pass the 500 mark this year.”

As this is the first year the ride has collaborated with the RDFCC, there is no financial goal in place, nor is there a specific number of riders expected. Rather organizers hope to push the awareness aspect, with people challenging the preconceived notions of mental illness.

“Even if this event helps one person, then I feel we have achieved success,” said Yashinskie.

Many of the riders are familiar with mental illness themselves, or know people who have their own challenges. By gathering together to show support, they hope to lessen the stigma attached to it, all while raising money for the RDFCC and helping each other out on the road.

Organizer Andre “Boner” Astle estimates that 90 per cent of the yearly riders are military veterans, but all riders from any background are welcome.

“It is not about us, but what we are doing it for,” said Astle.

He noted in several ways, motorcycle groups have stepped into a role similar to that of the Royal Canadian Legion. The events offer a chance for veterans to get together and receive “wind therapy” by hitting the open roads as a group of similar-minded buddies.

“There is a lot of value in peer-support,” said Yashinskie. “People do need that professional advice but to talk to somebody who ... has been there and done that, there is a lot of value in that. There is a lot of comfort in that.”

A lot of people keep their challenges to themselves and their loved ones only discover how serious their mental health issues were when they attempt, or die by suicide.

By breaking the silence on suicide and mental illness, organizers hope to help people feel less lonely or pushed aside, and that those around them will know when or how to reach out and help.

“I am a PTSD survivor with isolated incidents that happened over the years,” said Astle. “It took me 20 years to come out of my shell.

“Veterans don’t tend to get help internally,” he added, “so having an outreach place like this to come and get counselling and learn things is key.”

The ride begins at 11 a.m., with registration starting at 9 a.m. It leaves from Pete’s Sales and Service and will take the riders throughout the Ottawa Valley. Tickets are $25 a bike.

A BBQ will be held at 4 p.m. for everyone to attend and any donation will be gratefully accepted.

For more details, please visit the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre’s Facebook page at