Founder and lead volunteer, Anne's Team and the Anne Hoehn Memorial Foundation
There are always at least two paths to take, and as a result of losing his mother to suicide 13 years ago, Mike Hoehn, 44, has taken a path that has allowed him to turn that loss into a lifetime tribute by creating Anne's Team. The members of the team run for their own physical and mental health and at the same time, raise funds for the mental health of young people by supporting local programs, such as this year's recipient, The Jack Project, an initiative of the Jack Windeler Memorial Fund at Kids Help Phone. Anne's Team had 13 runners and raised $33,000 in 2010, and last year had 48 runners and raised $53,000. Mr. Hoehn, a six-time marathoner with at least a dozen half-marathons and a few 10K runs under his sneakers, chose to walk the 5K last year with Eva, his 92-year-old grandmother, and his father, Ferdinand, 71. This year, Mr. Hoehn and more than 100 others will run in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The team runs for an issue that has not quite made it to the water cooler but has begun to permeate public dialogue.
"I spoke more about my mom's suicide, so that was probably the very first step. After that, I had a long list. At the top of it: recruit runners. Between my group of friends and our first recipient agency, Oolagen mental health centre, we built our first Anne's Team."
"I took up running in 2007 when I was living and working in New York. When I returned to Canada in 2009, I recognized there were very few organizations that embodied the essence of running for oneself and running for something much bigger than oneself. I saw a perfect opportunity to build an organization that would marry endurance running, with all its physical and mental health benefits, with the cause of mental health awareness and support. "
"It can be tricky to calculate what a dollar can do, like some other causes can. I think it makes more sense to try to understand what didn't happen as a result of actions to help young people who are dealing with mental health challenges. Ultimately, if donated dollars result in just one young person's life being saved, or being turned in a solidly new direction, then I believe that is money well invested."
"Terry Fox. He took a physical challenge and a cause, and he made them one and the same. We often don't get to choose the way the story ends – whether it's the story of Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope, or the story of my mom's multi-decade battle with depression. But the legacy he left inspires me to make Anne's Team an important part of my mom's legacy."
WHAT DISCOURAGES YOU?
"The idea-to-action ratio in society at large is quite poor, in my opinion. People say or promise all sorts of things, and they just don't deliver. That's discouraging."
"A very strong desire that my mom's life not be forgotten – that her years of suffering go to help others who share similar struggles lead a better life than she had."
"Our goal in 2012 is to grow Anne's Team to more than 100 half- and full-marathoners – novice and experienced runners. Over the longer term, the foundation may add additional partner programs, run additional awareness-building and fundraising events, and who knows … we might soon grow large enough that we can hire an employee to help build Anne's Team even bigger and better!"
"I'd love to have Anderson Cooper. What many people don't realize is that Anderson Cooper lost his brother to suicide in 1988, so I think people would view him as someone who can genuinely identify with this cause. Maybe I can convince him to run the New York City Marathon for Anne's Team some day"
"When people are able to talk openly to others about their mental health, without the stigma that has kept us quiet for years, I will know that we have arrived."
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Farah Mohamed is president and chief executive officer of the G(irls)20 Summit. Send suggestions for Action Figure to Livebetter@globeandmail.com .
Editor's note: The original version of this article included incorrect figures for the number of participants on Anne's Team in which years. This version has been corrected.