Crowd cheers Winnipeg man raising awareness of youth suicide

25-year-old biking to Halifax from Vancouver for Tataskweyak Cree Nation Youth

Dozens of people cheered as Rylee Nepinak pulled into Memorial Park in downtown Winnipeg on his bike, with youth from Tataskweyak Cree Nation by his side.

They joined him just outside of city and rode in support of their northern Manitoba community, which is dealing with a youth suicide crisis.

Nepinak is biking across the country from Vancouver to Halifax to raise awareness of youth mental health.

Tataskweyak, also known as Split Lake, declared a state of emergency after 13 youth died by suicide in the past year, four of which were in the past two months.

“It doesn’t sit right with me,” said Nepinak. “And this ride is to show them that even though you are 10 hours away, you are still part of our community no matter what.”

Community members from Tataskweyak Cree Nation greeted Rylee Nepinak in Winnipeg as part of his cross-country trip to raise awareness on youth suicide in the community. Photo: Michelle Karlenzig/APTN.

The 25-year-old started his ride across Canada on Aug. 11 and has documented the journey on social media.

He said he’s received support along the way, with free meals and hotels provided by people who learned about his trip online.

His GoFundMe page has raised more than $15,000 and he plans to give the proceeds to the kids in the community.

“If we’re going to create leaders we have to empower them,” he said. “That’s the foundation of being a strong leader.”

On top of the suicide crisis, Tataskweyak has been under a boil water advisory for years. Nepinak said this just adds to the need for support and awareness.

“They need their basic needs met. They need clean water – that is a human need,” he said of the community about 900 km north of Winnipeg.

Nepinak says he hopes to reach Halifax by the end of September.

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