Saturday, May 18, 2024

Hike challenge shines light on mental health awareness

by MARCY TIMBLIN / Contributing Writer
| May 14, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Connecting people to the benefits of spending time in nature lies at the heart of the missions of both Kaniksu Land Trust and Ethan Murray Fund.

With a shared vision of fostering healthier, more resilient communities, these partners are coming together to present the upcoming "Hike for Ethan" hiking challenge event at Pine Street Woods during Mental Health Awareness Month. 

The event takes place Sunday, May 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. starting with a community hour featuring live music by Buster Brown, refreshments provided by Winter Ridge Natural Foods, and mental health resource booths hosted by Bonner General Behavioral Health, Kaniksu Community Health, NAMI Far North, and the Prummer Foundation. 

Participants can register to hike one of the three marked trails between 2 and 4 p.m. or they may choose any trail at Pine Street Woods. Registration is $25 per person and includes a Hike for Ethan Nalgene water bottle designed by Cora Murray. 

All proceeds go toward providing access to mental health care for teens and adults. 

Due to limited space at the Pine Street Woods parking lot, registration is limited to 150 participants and carpooling is strongly encouraged. Non-hikers are also welcome to enjoy the event without registering. A slide presentation of images from Matt and Justine’s through-hikes on the Idaho Centennial Trail and Pacific Northwest Trail will run inside the Outdoor Recreation Center during the hiking challenge for those who wish to stay behind and cheer on hikers. 

Ethan Murray Fund’s work involves empowering and supporting individuals in need by providing financial assistance for mental health services in the local community. The organization was born out of the tragic loss of Justine Murray’s son Ethan during a mental health crisis. After years of navigating a mental health system that failed to provide the resources she and her son needed, she started the Ethan Murray Fund with her hiking partner turned husband, Matt Connery. The nonprofit now provides therapy assistance for teens and adults who may face financial barriers in accessing healthcare.

Their website states: “We believe that mental well-being is a basic human right and should be accessible to all, regardless of financial status. By bridging the gap between those who seek help and the resources they require, we strive to create a more equitable and compassionate society where mental health is prioritized and individuals can thrive.” 

Kaniksu Land Trust’s mission is caring for the lands and people of the Kaniksu Region today, tomorrow, and forever. This work is achieved through land conservation as well as education and community programs that aim to address community issues. Pine Street Woods, a natural area owned and conserved by Kaniksu Land Trust, is a fitting venue for this event. 

“I chose this area because it holds special significance for Ethan and our community,” said Justine Murray, mother of Ethan Murray and co-founder of Ethan Murray Fund. “Ethan has explored these trails with me before, and it's become a cherished spot for our family. It's only fitting to host the 'Hike for Ethan' event here, where we can all come together and celebrate his memory surrounded by the beauty of Pine Street Woods.” 

A trail post on PSW’s Owl Trail recognizes Ethan Murray Fund as a KLT Partner Sponsor and features a trailside mental health message.

The event is sponsored by Sandpoint Medical Massage, Kaniksu Community Health, & Winter Ridge Natural Foods.

The Hike for Ethan embodies the shared values of the two organizations and the event’s sponsors, emphasizing the transformative power of nature in promoting mental health. 


    A trail post on the Pine Street Woods' Owl Trail recognizes Ethan Murray Fund as a KLT partner sponsor and features a trailside mental health message.
    Kaniksu Land Trust staff and Ethan Murray Fund board members are pictured by a trail post on Pine Street Wood's Owl Trail that features a trailside mental health message.