Paddling Community Rallies to Support Mental Wellness Project | Rapid Magazine | Rapid Media
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Paddling Community Rallies to Support Mental Wellness Project All photos this page: John Rathwell

Adventure sports photographer John Rathwell is road tripping across North America to promote health through outdoor adventure

“We want to tell the stories of people who have found balance in their lives, and found their happiness, and inspire others to do the same,” says photographer John Rathwell in a video on the Searching for Sero crowd funding campaign.

Sero is short for serotonin, a chemical that’s believed to contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Rathewell and his partner, Tracy Guenard, are on a mission to find and photograph people who are using outdoor adventure and exercise to produce that chemical.

“What spurred the project was my father’s passing,” says Rathwell. “I just saw him work and work and work and he never gave himself time to play.”

After loosing his father to suicide in 2014, Rathwell wanted to do something to further the conversation about suicide prevention and mental health. He and Guenard will be combining their talents to make it happen. Using Guenard’s business background and writing skills, and Rathwell’s photography, the pair is driving across the continent and back documenting the adventures of people pursuing activities they love in the outdoors. The Sero Stories will be featured online first, as the couple is on the road, and eventually in a coffee table book. Proceeds from the book will go towards supporting suicide prevention charities.

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So far, Searching for Sero has featured cyclists, skiiers, SUP paddlers, yogis and whitewater kayakers: Gen Gagnon, for whom cycling is an outlet, a form of therapy; Todd Lavictoire, who teaches yoga to relieve tension and help people deal with their pain; Kalob Grady, a kayaker raised on the banks of the Ottawa River who uses paddling to stay motivated, and connect with family and friends.

“It’s been amazing how much support is coming from the paddling community,” says Rathwell, who’s been feeling the love from his kayaking companions since launching the project. From designers helping with their logo and web design, to crowdfunding contributions, social media promotion and offers of places to stay along the way, the whitewater world is doing what it does best by offering the couple a tight-knit, supportive community.

“We’re also receiving an overwhelming amount of support from family and friends,” says Rathwell, “and from total strangers who are getting in touch to share their own stories and excitement about what we’re doing.”

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Searching for Sero raised $13,247 for their mission through a crowd funding campaign on Indigogo.com. A portion of the funds are going towards the restoration of a Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia Camper Van that will be Rathwell and Guenard’s home for the next two years. “It offered us the best compromise to living space and fuel economy,” they say. “We could never afford to fuel a big RV around North America, but we needed a little more living space than a Toyota Yaris.”

Between now and spring, when the couple will embark on their trip, they’ll be focusing on fixing up the van, planning logistics, seeking corporate sponsors to round out their funding, and building an online community through their Facebook page, #FoundSero, and Instagram and Snapchat accounts.

Learn more at www.searchingforsero.com.

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