She had a rough childhood but then turned her energy from delinquency to sports in her late teens. She didn't start speed skating until 27, and the kids were surprised to find out she's 41 - practically ancient! Her dad was an alcoholic and had bi-polar, and her sister also has bi-polar, so she had a tough time telling her mom when she found herself in a pit of depression. Her mantra is "stop the stigma," and she did a great job by sharing her story so frankly. She was such a warm, open, and authentic speaker (with a great Canadian accent!) that she'd be an inspiration even without the medals.
She spoke of the importance of access to sports and art for kids to use as an outlet for expression and emotional energy. They're not extras in society but essentials.
The emcee made it very clear in the presentation that Bell is paying all the costs of her tour and that every penny donated goes straight to mental health initiatives - an important note for the more cynical among us! Mental health phone lines and care and support is costly, and there's not enough money coming from the government to give access to all Canadians. Bell has already donated $62 million to mental health institutions since 2010. The more people that use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, the more they'll donate in lieu of spending money on advertising.
ETA: I also liked that Clara encouraged people to petition the government for real change. Her 12,000 km ride ends on July 1st in Ottawa at Parliament Hill. Getting donations from corporations is only a part of the solution.
I was a lucky recipient of a hug from Clara as she thanked a group of us who collaborated on a mural to honour her journey. I was just one of many painters, but the real kudos go to the teacher who made it all happen and did the final details, Caz Bentley, and the designer, a student, Jacqueline Snyder, who spoke in a CTV video filmed at a talk Clara did the night before coming to KCI.
And Clara got a kiss from KCI's goats before leaving:
|h/t Matt Morris|