Zombies and ghouls to unmask mental health

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Airdrie’s Mike Loughman is gearing up for the third annual Unmask Mental Health event Oct. 7 – an event he started in Airdrie to raise awareness about the stigmas associated with mental illness while also raising money for non-profit organizations.

Fifty per cent of the proceeds from this year’s event will go to Airdrie P.O.W.E.R., a non-profit organization working to provide women with the means to leave an abusive environment through emergency resources, education and empowerment. The organization is currently raising funds to build a women’s shelter in Airdrie.

Loughman said he chose to donate funds to Airdrie P.O.W.E.R. this year after reading an article in the Airdrie City View about the high domestic violence rate in Airdrie.

“When I found out we didn’t have a shelter, I was kind of shocked. I always kind of assumed we did have something like that,” he said. “I like to give to a different charity every year, pick something that I feel like needs our help.”

The other half of the funds will go to Defeat Depression, a nationwide fundraising campaign for mental health programs and services across the country.

The Unmask Mental Health event will go on rain or shine at East Lake Park from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will include a Halloween-themed walk-a-thon for kids and adults encouraged to dress up in costumes, or they can be transformed into zombies by hair stylists and face painters on location. Prizes will be handed out for best costume and fastest runner.

There will also be a variety of entertainment throughout the day, including performances by magician Ryan Jade, musician Steve Jevne and the Airdrie Sky High Twirlers.

The Perogy Boyz food truck will be on site as well as a bouncy castle and face painting for kids. Spiderman, Batman, Catwoman and Ironman are also expected to make appearances and a variety of items have been donated by local businesses for a silent auction.

Loughman battled an alcohol and drug addiction for many years before launching the event in Airdrie three years ago. He said when he became sober he wanted to help others suffering from mental illness and this was a way to bring people together.

The event has garnered support from organizations and individuals in the community since its inception, he said.

“I had a lot of people calling me this year offering donations rather than me calling them,” he said.

Registration is $5 and Loughman said those interested can register online at airdrie.defeatdepression.ca or on location from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

He encourages people to attend so they can help raise mental health awareness, be a part of fundraising for a women’s shelter in Airdrie and have fun while doing it.

“It’s a huge milestone, so being part of something bigger than yourself and helping your community, it’s pretty cool and a good opportunity,” he said. “I think mental health affects everybody, so it’s important for us to get out there and raise money for these mental health causes and to talk about mental health.”

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