Zach Hofer hits the road for child and youth mental health
Thirteen-year-old Zachary Hofer, surrounded by family, friends and supporters set out from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) Sunday morning for his Zach Makes Tracks walk to Ottawa in support of the hospital’s Child and Youth Mental Health program, set to open later this year. The youngster has already raised $50,000 for the program. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA
Zachary Hofer is on the road to Ottawa.
The 13-year-old was surrounded by family, friends and supporters as he departed from Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) Sunday morning for his Zach Makes Tracks walk to the nation's capital and is hoping to arrive there on Sept. 10.
He will be running, biking and walking in support of the hospital’s future Child and Youth Mental Health program.
The inspirational teen's original goal was to raise $10,000 for the program but thanks to his dedication and the support of Barrie residents and businesses — including the Hitch House (which provided an RV for the 400-plus kilometre trek), ROCK95/KOOL FM and other supporters — he has already collected $50,000 and that could be just the beginning.
"What Zach is doing is going to make a difference," said RVH Foundation CEO Eric Dean. "Right now, if kids in this region are having mental health difficulties there is nowhere for them to go if they need a hospital stay.
"They are usually sent out of the area and away from their families and their friends," Dean said. "RVH is changing that, our community is changing that and Zach is changing that."
By the end of the year, the RVH will open the eight-bed Child and Youth Mental Health unit which will provide care for up to 300 youngsters every year.
"We'll also have programs for kids so they can get the help they need during the day but return to their own homes each night, helping hundreds more kids each year," Dean added. "Zach really is making tracks and raising awareness to make it easier for other families to talk about their own struggles and hopes."
Zach's mom, Shelley, said she is incredibly proud of her son.
"He's a quiet leader," she said. "He's not doing it for the attention, he's doing it for all the right reasons.
"If we can help just one kid, it's going to be worth it."
The teen has said he was inspired to make his journey by Anneleise Carr, who has swam across Lake Ontario.
"I am humbled to learn he was inspired by me," she said to the almost 200 supporters gathered at RVH on Sunday. "I'm so proud to know him and thanks to all the people who are supporting Zach."
To support Zach on his journey and to learn more, visit www.zachmakestracks.ca.