Whitby paddleboarder, mental health advocate, honoured by Prime Minister

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Published March 28, 2023 at 3:39 pm

Mike Shoreman, the first person with disabilities to cross all five Great Lakes on a paddleboard and a champion for mental health issues, was honoured, along with his team by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Monday afternoon on Parliament Hill.

Shoreman, a former professional paddleboarder and Whitby resident who was stricken with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome in 2018 – a neurological condition which paralyzed and collapsed the right side of his face and dealt him serious mobility, vision, speech, taste and hearing problems – was feted by Trudeau in his office and given a tour of the House of Commons.

“It was a surreal experience. Being invited to meet the Prime Minister is humbling and a really big honour,” said Shoreman (who received the official congratulatory message from Trudeau in September) spent his time following the meeting being interviewed on local TV, meeting up with other politicians and seeing the sights of the capital.

Shoreman was accompanied on the trip to Ottawa by many of the senior members of his team who helped prepare him physically as well as mentally for the epic summer-long lake crossings, which raised more than $60,000 for Jack.org, a Canadian charity working to train and empower young leaders to revolutionize how mental health is viewed and treated.

“My team got me there and this is for them and for the mental health of all Canadians,” he said.

Shoreman dealt with mental issues after his diagnosis, starting with a diagnosis by doctors to give up any dreams of paddleboarding again, and after battling his own inner demons and re-training his brain to walk again he got back on a paddleboard. After one failed attempt at crossing Lake Ontario in 2021 Shoreman not only crossed Lake Ontario a year later but all five Great Lakes in a gruelling journey that was as punishing on his team members as it was on him.

“We struggled in 2021 to cross Lake Ontario but in 2022 we would cross all five of them,” he said from Ottawa. “We were so happy in the end because we didn’t think it would ever end.”

Having his team there with him for the meet-and-greet with the Prime Minister was the way it had to be for Shoreman. “This seemed impossible at times for me. But it was really hard on my team as well. They all made personal sacrifices.”

“Today all the work we put in was acknowledged.”

The focus on Shoreham’s life post-crossings has been about mental health, especially as it relates to kids.

“Mental health is the leading cause of health related death for young Canadians and a big part of that is that is because we still aren’t where we need to be in terms of stigma and shame,” he said. “I think Canadians look at their own kids and think ‘my kids are okay, so everyone’s kids are okay.’ Unfortunately, that’s not the case and mental health organizations are struggling to keep up with increases in access to services they provide.”

The 2021 International Stand Up Paddle Boarding Man of the Year – the first Canadian and person with a disability to be honoured – and a two-time Canadian Disability Hall of Fame nominee, Shoreman was also named the 2022 Marg Starzynski Mental Health Leadership Award, presented annually to the individual who shows outstanding leadership and personal effort at fostering mental health awareness.

His journey is now the subject of a documentary, with a 100-minute feature on Mike, the Canadian Mental Health crisis and the Great Lakes crossings being released in September for the Canadian and International film festival circuit.  It features interviews with Directors of CAMH, Talk Suicide Canada, Jack.org, Sick Not Weak spokesman Michael Landsberg, Vicki Keith and Liz Braun.

To see the trailer click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOdjz2G3Gdo

“Just two paddlers hanging out” – Mike Shoreman with Milton MP and former Olympic canoer Adam Van Koeverden

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