Wendy Adams Using Son’s Story to Spread Mental Health Awareness at Sunset Speedway

zacheryWhen it comes to racing at the local short track, it’s all about the drive to score the victory that night. The excitement, close quarter racing, family-friend atmosphere brings a lot of families to the track each week, young and old, to take in the action.

With many faces in the grandstands, there’s an opportunity to spread a message to those fans that could possibly resonate with them, and change their lives. That is something that Wendy Adams and Adams Racing are trying to do.

On Saturday August 15, Sunset Speedway (Innisfil, Ontario) will host the third annual Mental Health Awareness. Wendy Adams approached the track with the idea two years ago, wanting to raise awareness about mental health.

“It’s raising awareness number one,” she commented last month. “It’s bringing the resources to the kids that do come to the track from Kids Help Phone line, New Path Youth and Family Services, and Defeat Depression.”

The night will also include a 50/50 draw, with the winner taking home half the money and the other half going to Kids Help Phone.

“We’re raising money for New Path for counseling because it’s over a year waiting list for anybody to get counseling through New Path,” she commented. “You can get once a month counseling – not same councilor – but we need more services because children are dying too young.”

Photo Credit: Debbie Jo Zardo

According to Statistics Canada, on average 294 youths die from suicide each year. Adams knows this personally, as her son Zachery committed suicide four years ago on August 17.

“It’s very rare that you have a parent that’s had a child commit suicide that will speak up and say, ‘You don’t want to be here. You don’t want to be in my shoes. I’m handling it, I’m living and I’m surviving’,” she said. “But I think it’s my calling. I have a reason to do it. That car is one, and awareness is second.”

Zachery rides with Adams each night in her No. 78 Prosigns, CPA Simcoe County Pool League, Robson Janitoral, Fastenal Canada Midland, Ernie’s Performance, Beatty Automotive, the UPS Store Collingwood, Performance Improvements and RSA Auto Parts Mustang as his name and photo are on the dashboard. The photo being on the dashboard cause a lot of people to ask who Zachery is, and Adams is very willing to tell her son’s story.

“Most people are like, ‘I’m sorry’, but I want you to hear my story,” she commented. “You can say that you’re sorry as it’s hard for you to hear that my son committed suicide, but it’s not hard for me to say it because the first person I say it to, they may be going through the same thing and they’re willing to step up and ask questions. They may not feel alone. Maybe their child isn’t there yet and they may be able to stop it.”

Since beginning her racing career, she has used her story and racing to bring awareness about mental health, in hopes of helping someone. She says that awareness is huge is a lot of people think that they’re immune.

“They think that they’re immune to the aspects of mental health and that their children are fine, or just going through puberty and normal everyday life,” she commented.

In part of bringing awareness, she hopes to put an end to bullying, in which she has started by doing it on her part by taking the pledge to end bullying.

“That’s a big thing; we need to stop it now,” she said of bullying. “When you think about bullying from the aspects – for my son, it started at grade two and it continued on. It did eventually stop, but by then the depression took hold so it really affected him through his life.

“The kids that bullied him – four of them came to his funeral and apologized to me because they realized what the bullying had done and didn’t figure it would’ve led to what it led to.”

She added that she shares her story at all the events that she goes to because she wants kids to realize that “the jokes you play on somebody, sometimes humiliate them and they don’t realize it”.

“It starts that progression, going through that part,” she continued. “So really think about it – but don’t do it. It may be a funny thing, but it affects people.”

In continuing to raise awareness, she hopes to not only bring help to those with mental health issues, but also prevent things that cause them, such as bullying.

“We always do vaccinations to prevent diseases; let’s do the same with mental health,” she said. “Let’s stop the bullying, stop everything so we don’t run into this and it’s getting worse. I wish it wasn’t, but that’s why I do what I do here. That’s why I do what I do with the car and go places. Our appearances throughout the year are the Kids Help Phone Walk, the Defeat Depression Walk, and I think we’ll be attending the Suicide Awareness Walk in September.”

Each time the story is heard, another person understands her story, and perhaps one day there will be less mental health issues, as well as more help for those with issues. Currently, it’s hard to get help, as Adams says you have to fight to get help.

“You can’t go just get help like from a doctor. You literally have to go and fight to get mental health help,” she said. “We don’t even have a children’s unit in RVH.  The closest one to Newmarket is Sunny Brook.”

Each week, another person hears the story and through word of mouth, the story is getting further out there. Perhaps it will indeed change a life, or possibly lives.

“It’s getting out there – one step at a time,” she said. “If I save one child, that will make my job feel good. I’ll never have anybody come to me and say ‘it helped me and my child’.”

 

Personal Author’s Note: I want thank Wendy Adams for taking the time to share her story.

I went through bullying in high school and know what it can be like to experience it from the other side. It’s not as pretty as it may seem. Hopefully, as she said, more people begin to understand the effects and it becomes easier. 

Do not hesitate to check out any of the links posted throughout the article as they’re helpful resources. Also, to learn more about Wendy and her team, check out http://www.adamsracing.net/.

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