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  • Writer's pictureSuzanne Venuta

My Chocolate Moment

As a mental health educator/advocate, inspirational speaker and writer, I often speak to groups of youth about living with a mental illness. And at the beginning of each presentation I give them chocolate, I mean what better way to grab their attention! But there is a message that goes with it. I tell them that they knew they were coming to this class, they knew there was going to be a speaker, and they knew that speaker was going to be me, BUT, what they didn’t know is that they were going to get chocolate. This is an example that one never knows what’s around the next corner, so when in doubt and a dark place, when you’re struggling and trying to hold on, remember the chocolate. One never knows what’s around the corner.

This is my one of my chocolate moments...

Last month I went over to Vancouver to speak at an Outward Bound Canada event. Outward Bound is an outdoor experiential program and their mission is “...to cultivate resilience, leadership, connections and compassion through inspiring challenging journeys of self-discovery in the natural world.”

I have been informally involved on and off with Outward Bound Canada since 2005 when I took my first Women of Courage course. The Women of Courage program is for women who have experienced trauma or violence at some point in their life. This course was a week-long canoeing course in Algonquin Park in Ontario. This program was life changing!

I am passionate about Outward Bound Canada and their programs because I know the difference they make in peoples lives, I know the difference it has made in mine. They run all sorts of programs and they have five charitable programs:

So, when I was asked if I would be interested in speaking at an Outward Bound event in Vancouver, about my experiences with the Women of Courage program, I jumped at it. I thought “it’s the least I can do for all they have done for me.” So I wrote a speech, made arrangements, and I was off to Vancouver. I was looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones, and there was an added bonus, I was playing a game of golf while over there.

The event and speech went well, and the day after the event I went golfing at the Point Grey Golf course with Rob. Rob is an Outward Bound Alumni and supporter that I meet when I gave another speech to a group of funders at an Outward Bound event two years previously.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would ever play Point Grey Golf Course. I had a great time, even if it was raining, and I could not stop grinning, I was like a kid in a candy store! And in true Outward Bound style, growth happened, it blew away all the “old tapes” I was told growing up about not being able to play golf etc. This may have been a fun day for Rob, but it was so much more for me, it was a gift.

After the game, it was back to Rob’s house for dinner with a group of Outward Bund folks, instructors, directors, it was a great evening. We had a great time, lots of talk, and more laughter.

This is where my chocolate moment starts….

Outward Bound Canada has what is called Reach Beyond Expeditions. These expeditions are fundraisers for Outward Bounds charitable programs. These programs happen at different times of the year, and in various places. There is one coming up in September, it is the Tour Du Mont Blanc.

Sarah Wiley, who is the executive director of Outward Bound, mentioned this trip to me. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know this area or that the trek existed. I thought there is no way I am fit enough to do this etc. But there was some more encouragement, I slept on the idea, and thought about it on the way home the next day. I put out reasons why I wouldn’t be able to do this, but as many reasons as I put up there, Sarah shot them down with solutions. So to make a long story short, I am going on this 170 km trek to raise funds for Outward Bound’s charitable programs.

I’m still pinching myself, I can’t believe it.

I had dreamed about going on an extended trip with Outward Bound, but the script of that dream, there was also a year to train!!!!! I have 3 months!!! So between the moments of not believing this is happening, I am having moments of serious concern I am not fit enough, and in true Outward Bound style, I am waking in the middle of the night in a bit of a panic and wondering what the Hell am I doing!

So, I have started training, and this blog will follow me on my training, why I am doing this, the challenges I face. One of the challenges is living with a mental illness and working to keep that balance of becoming fitter. Another of the many challenges is my trauma history, and how this impacts my training.

This blog will be about all of the above, and I am also writing it to help me process this experience, and also to help others learn, and hopefully inspire. This blog will not end when the trip is done, because in true Outward Bound fashion- the journey continues once you return home from a trip and you start to incorporate all you have learned about yourself and the world.

And, if reading this blog happens to convince you to donate to my fundraising goal, that would be amazing. Your gift, no matter how small, will help others experience these life changing and lifesaving programs.

Training for this trip is going to be challenging for me in so many ways, but I know the benefits of these programs. So like in the Alps, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Come join me on this journey. As we know, journeys are better enjoyed with friends. Hop on board, and join me on this adventure called life, and remember, one never knows when the next chocolate moment will happen


Thanks for joining me and let’s see where the next step takes me.

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