Community Strong Festival underway in the Sault

A series of marathons are being held this weekend in Sault Ste. Marie as part of the Community Strong Festival.

The fundraiser is a partnership between the Algoma Family Services Foundation and the local YMCA.

It’s designed to raise money for local mental and physical health initiatives, especially for the city’s youth who may not have access to mental health services or simple recreation.

The festival kicked off with a 5K colour run Saturday, which organizer Sonny Spina said was aimed at getting everyone out and running.

“One of the reasons we chose a colour run is that  we really wanted to show that anybody can get involved, of any fitness level, and join in, join the conversation, join the community, and be a part of this,” said Spina.

Gail Provenzano, is the driving force behind the festival. The idea came about following the loss of her son, Brett, to suicide 12 years ago.

“After losing my son, I took up running. It started off with a 2K with the phenomenal Sault Striders group in Sault Ste. Marie. That, I found, was a peace of mind. It would help me get through a couple miles of not thinking about what has happened,” said Provenzano.

For Provenzano’s daughter, Marnie, this was her first 5K run. She said physical activity, and gatherings such as the Community Strong Festival, can be of great benefit to mental health.

“Part of the reason why people struggle so hard with their mental health is because we’re alone,” she said.

“Things like this bring people together around something that is focused on their better health.”

On Sunday, the BP61 run will held. “BP” stands for Brett Provenzano, and the 61 refers to his high school football number. It’s a 61 kilometre run, and will take place alongside separate full, and half marathon events.