Kamloops mental health advocate invited to speak at WE Believe conference

Local to speak at WE event

Humbled. Honoured. Surprised.

These are the words Kamloops resident Marlene Hibbs uses to describe the moment she found out that she'd be speaking at a WE Believe event next year. The conference will see 8,000 teens, teachers and educators gather in Saint John, N.B. on May 20, 2021 (that'll be dependent on the COVID-19 situation), "to inspire you to be the change," according to the organization's website. Another 80,000 people are expected to tune in online.

Hibbs — who has been riding her bike across Canada since May 2019 in an effort to raise awareness around mental health — will be sharing her own story with the audience, of what it's like living with an eating disorder.

"Eating disorders are so marginalized and it's such a huge topic we need to be speaking more about," Hibbs tells Castanet. "I think it really encompasses a lot of youth, and people of all backgrounds: men, women, LGBTQ+. ... I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to speak about it in a way that speaks to the struggle, but also moving into a phase of resilience and empowerment."

Daniel Foote, a spokesperson for the WE event, heard about Hibbs' ride about a year ago. The pair connected when Hibbs arrived in New Brunswick this summer.

"I just saw it as a really good fit for the kids to hear her message," Foote tells Castanet.

WE Charity has been in the news recently for a controversial deal made with the federal government.

Regardless of the negative publicity, Hibbs says she's honoured to be given such a large platform.

"Other organizations that I've connected with have looked at me as someone who speaks too much and too loudly and too boldly. I'm so grateful there's an organization that sees me for me and sees power in my message and wants to uphold that truth. I think it's a perfect fit. I couldn't be happier," she says.

Hibbs will end her bike ride in Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island, in about two weeks time. 

"When I get there, I have a giant Canadian flag I'm going to wave around. I'm so proud to be here, as a woman riding across the country for what I believe in. I was able to do it by myself... not alone because I have a community that believes in me, like Kamloops," she says.

Editor's note: Marlene Hibbs is currently fundraising for the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation. Her goal is $1,000, money that would go toward the eating disorder unit at RIH. To donate, click here. Select "Mental Health" in the donation designation drop-down menu; in the "In Honour" section, write "Eating Disorder Clinic."


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