Ryan Thirlwall dons a pink tutu in preparation for the March 19 Tutu Walk For Hope, making the 126-kilometre trek from Nanaimo to Victoria. (Jacob Zinn photo)

Ryan Thirlwall dons a pink tutu in preparation for the March 19 Tutu Walk For Hope, making the 126-kilometre trek from Nanaimo to Victoria. (Jacob Zinn photo)

West Shore man breaks out a pink tutu for Nanaimo-Victoria walk

Ryan Thirlwall gets set for third 126-km walk for mental health

Ryan Thirlwall has a new tutu and he’s ready to walk.

For the third time in seven years Thirlwall will do the Tutu Walk For Hope on March 19. He’ll be wearing a pink tutu (and other pink niceties) from Nanaimo to Victoria. The 31-year-old mental health advocate has made the 126-kilometre journey by foot twice before, first in 2012 when he was just 24 and then again in 2016.

READ MORE: Terrible weather doesn’t stop epic anti-bullying walk

A West Shore resident this time around (he was living up-Island last time), Thirlwall does it to raise awareness about a lack of mental health services and to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club. The walk actually starts at Nanaimo Chevron at Woodgrove Mall at 7 a.m. He walks non-stop to Duncan, where he usually arrives around midnight.

“I take a break. I have a bath, get crew organized, and then head back out to finish at about 10:30 a.m.”

He’ll finish at the Boys and Girls Club in Esquimalt.

“It’s not enjoyable, it’s to raise awareness and inspire people, but it’s not a fun walk,” Thirlwall said. “I don’t sleep for 29 hours and just keep walking, it’s agonizing.”

While the walk recovery takes weeks, Thirlwall is more agonized by the gaps in mental health support, especially once you’re outside of a big urban centre.

“Even just outside Victoria, if you look at statistics it’s depressing,” Thirlwall said. “We live in a world where we should not have the lack of funding and resources and awareness for people to access these resources. The justice system is flooded with people who don’t need to be in it, addiction is heavy, and people who need the most help can’t get the help.

“I hope it’s my last time doing the walk, I want to send the message home one last time that mental health needs more funding.”

In times of desperate need, there’s not always someone to call and there should be, he said.

“On average we have almost 5,800 suicides in Canada per year, that’s a heavy number, but there’s also a lack of awareness on where to get help,” Thirlwall said.

On Sept. 27, 2017, Thirlwall and friends launched the Facebook page BOSS, Becoming One Supportive Society, and it now has more than 40,000 followers.

“I want to bring people together internationally online to create real, meaningful change offline,” he said. “I want to make this year a memorable year, we bring diversity, especially where there’s diversity. It’s time to talk about online social media, about bullying, about building community in schools.”

Thirlwall is actually doing two walks and will be back in the tutu after the March 19 Tutu Walk For Hope when he walks the following Wednesday (March 27) from Swartz Bay to the Terry Fox statue at Mile Zero, then over to Langford city hall (his hometown). It’s a 33.6-km trek that, when added to the 2012, 2016 and 2019 Tutu Walks of Hope, will total 460 km, the distance of Vancouver Island from top to bottom.

“I did a 33-km Tutu Walk extension in 2016 that nearly killed me but that’s irrelevant, there’s people who need help way more than me,” Thirlwall said.

People can donate directly through the Boys and Girls Club, which comes with a tax receipt. The key word will be ‘tutu’ to track donations made for the cause, he said.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

The Sooke school district has filled all spots for their French immersion and nature kinderagarten programs in 2021-2022 school year. Regular kindergarten registration is still open and available. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke school district gets surplus of nature, French immersion kindergarten applications

Not enough room for almost half of nature kindergarten applicants

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read