On November 27th, David Harris, CEO and Founder of CameronHelps and Social Worker/CameronHelps Clinical Director Jennifer Brighton spoke to students at Port Credit Secondary School. David talked about his personal story of tragedy, recovery and hope for the future, while Jennifer discussed, from the clinical perspective, how to cope with difficult emotions that are abundant when we struggle with life, or with depression and suicide. Jennifer is a Psychotherapist specializing in working with teens.
The following article, is an account of David’s talk by Laura Paradi, a grade 11 student at Port Credit Secondary School.
A Wellness Warrior’s Perspective on David Harris’s Presentation
by Laura Paradi
David Harris came to our school, Port Credit Secondary School, on November 27 to give his presentation about Cameron Helps, suicide, running, and Team Unbreakable. There was much apprehension before this date due to the risk being taken to discuss suicide in front of over 1200 high school students. I had heard Dave’s presentation before, and had no concerns because I knew his presentation was incredibly uplifting and inspiring.
He starts off his talk with a short introduction on who he is, what his hobbies are, what his job is, and gives a snapshot of his current life. He leads the group through a gratitude exercise, where we applaud a thought that we are thankful. He talks about what he’s thankful for, like his cats, and living through being mugged a few years ago.
He then goes on to talk about his decision to get fit and healthy in 2004, and to start running. He shows a before picture of his physical appearance, and tells us the story of when he decided he would run his first (of many) Mississauga marathons. He talks about all the amazing things he has done such as going skydiving, and we get to see the thrilling video. Dave Harris then begins to talk about his son Cameron.
The audience gets to see two different pictures of Cameron, one as a young boy, and one as a teenager, the age he was before he passed away. Dave talks about what kind of person Cameron was, and what led him to make the decision to take his life. Although this is a dark and heavy topic, Dave talks about it in a light yet still serious way. Dave describes what he calls “sitting on the fence”.
He had the choice to dwell in all the dark emotions he was feeling after Cameron’s death, but he made the courageous decision to do something positive, and keep running. He tells the story of the run he was on when he came up with the idea to start his organization, Cameron Helps. In addition to this decision to start Cameron Helps, he made a pledge to run 19 consecutive Mississauga marathons in honour of the 19 years of Cameron’s life.
He talks about the bamboo tree and how much of an inspiration that has been to him.During intense storms, the bamboo tree falls flat to the ground but is able to pick itself up no matter how crazy the storm. He talks about how inspirational that has been to him, and that in turn is very inspirational for the audience. Dave goes on to talk about his goals for Cameron Helps, like turning it into a national organization by the year 2023.
Dave talks about the importance of the choices we make. He chooses to go running when he isn’t feeling well, and experiences the amazing benefits he gets from this. Because of his starting of Cameron Helps, his wife and himself were asked to speak at Harvard University and tell their story. I find this story so inspirational because it shows how every thing you do can have a huge impact, even if it seems like a relatively small thing at the time.
His presentation opened many eyes, and inspired many hearts. I’m sure that there wasn’t one person who wasn’t touched by his incredible story. His courage to talk about what he’s been through, focus on the positive, and be able to tell us practical things that we can do to feel better, is amazing. Cameron Helps is an amazing organization that focuses on the benefits that running has on not only our physical, but also our mental health.
I’m so glad that David Harris was able to come speak to my school and I think that he should share his presentation with every group, organization, school, or workplace. You won’t regret asking him to come speak.