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Are you ready to rock for mental health?

Melissa Roth, Buddha Fitness Studio, Ridgeway, March 2, 2023, VOL. 4 ISSUE 14

Local business owner and photographer, Jenn McCready is! That’s because she’s hosting a fundraiser for The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) on April 15, 2023, in Fort Erie, ON.  Jenn is the founder of Lady Luck Photography Studios in Ridgeway who uses her social media platforms to step out in front of the camera to talk about her two biggest passions – body positivity and mental health.

With her signature fiery red & deep blue hair, Jenn’s bold and eccentric style, which includes an array of chunky jewelry and bright, mismatched prints, is not the only thing that makes her unique. She also has a beautiful, calming energy that puts others instantly at ease, which is likely a big part of the reason she has developed a reputation as a photographer that brings out the best in her clients in a safe and judgment-free environment.

As a mental health advocate, Jenn uses her growing presence as an influencer to start candid conversations around the subject of mental health. “My intention is the end the stigma around mental health and normalize talking about it without shame of judgment”, says Jenn.

Although she has struggled with PTSD and depression for most of her life, it wasn’t until 2022, when Jenn experienced four months of a deep, suffocating depression  that made her realize the importance of using her voice and her photography to do everything in her power to help others.

“My message is a simple one”, Jenn states. “For anyone who’s lost in the ‘upside-down’ as I call it, HANG ON. HANG ON TIGHT. You will get flipped back into the right side up, I promise.”

Empowered by her message of hope, Jenn has become more passionate than ever about using her community influence to encourage and inspire others to keep going and push through life’s challenges. “By recovering loudly, you can help others not suffer in silence”, Jenn claims.

The ever-increasing need for mental health resources became the primary motivation behind Jenn’s decision to put her leopard-print boots to the ground and get to work on creating a fundraiser for the CMHA, a non-profit organization with a grassroots connection to her community.

Jenn quickly assembled her team, which includes Melissa Roth, owner of Buddha Fitness Studio in Ridgeway, and Sheri Hawkins, a community advocate and founder of the social platform, Mainly Niagara.

As a certified yoga instructor, competitive athlete and fitness coach, Melissa understands firsthand the importance of the mind-body connection. “A strong mindset is a crucial foundation to being able to adapt and maintain permanent healthy habits” says Melissa. “You can’t build a skyscraper on uneven ground.”

Melissa was clinically diagnosed with depression at a very young age. At 14 years old, Melissa first attempted suicide.

“I had a dear friend of mine take his life, which paved the unfortunate path for many of my high school acquaintances to also take their own lives,” reflects Melissa. “After years of battling with changing medications and traditional talk therapy, I thought I had beaten depression. It was through COVID that my depressive state became my daily reality.”

After more than twenty years of this lived experience, Melissa realized she did not fit into the traditional medical treatment model and so she sought alternative ways to alleviate her suffering.

Melissa continues, “I know I’m not the only person who doesn’t fit into the traditional mould, and my aim is to ensure that people understand it’s okay to be different.”

Eagerly coming on board as a third collaborator is Sheri Hawkins, creator of the social platform, Mainly Niagara. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainly Niagara became recognized for it’s community advocacy by providing livestreamed concerts, virtual vendor markets and access to local mental health resources. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic was a strain on everyone’s mental health,” Sheri reflects. “Everyone collectively experienced some sort of anxiety or feelings of instability. If there’s an upside, it’s that people are more open to having the conversation because it’s relatable to pretty much everyone on some level.”

As one of the five founding members of the City of Niagara Falls’ Mental Health Committee, Sheri has been working to bring a mental health & wellness fair to the Niagara Falls’ Exchange, which is scheduled for June 4th, 2023. She had reached out to Jenn to ask her to participate as a keynote speaker and quickly recognized an alignment of their respective visions. So, when Jenn asked Sheri to partner with her on this project, she immediately jumped on board.

“Working with Jenn was a no-brainer for me”, says Sheri. “Having lived experience with your own mental health challenges can make you a powerful advocate for others in similar situations. Having experienced my own share of struggles, I recognized Jenn’s passion was fueled by a sincere desire to help others, and that deeply resonated with me.”

“Ridgeway Rocks for Mental Health” is a day-long event comprised of a vendor market, yoga collective and music concert, featuring the well-known Tragically Hip cover band,

This event is being held at The Sanctuary Centre for the Arts at 209 Ridge Rd N in Fort Erie, on Saturday, April 15th from 11AM-4PM. The market will have over a dozen curated local vendors, a silent auction. door prizes and a 360 photo booth. Local multi-media artist Faith Schaeffer will also be doing a live art demonstration.

Following the market, Melissa will be hosting a free yoga and meditation class between 4:30-5:30PM. Both events are family-friendly and free to attend.

At 9PM The Practically Hip will be hitting the stage, with local comedian Mark Matthews opening the show at 8:30PM. All profits from ticket sales, silent auction as well as $1 from every alcoholic drink sold, will be going to raise funds for the CMHA. Tickets can be purchased on-line for $25 and at the door for $30.  You can purchase tickets through TicketScene at:  https://www.ticketscene.ca/events/43819/.

If you would like to participate in this event as a vendor, sponsor or volunteer, please email: ridgewayrocksformentalhealth@gmail.com.

*If you are in crisis and in need mental health support, call COAST at 1-866-550-5205 for confidential crisis support 24/7.

There are no upcoming events at this time.