The Sashbear Foundation

August 2018

Fall Family Connections™ programs—a few spots left

Sashbear’s fall Family Connections™ programs are open for registration and spots are filling up fast. To see the program schedule and to register go to

Family Connections™, is a Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) skills-based Peer-to-Peer program which provides skills to families. There is no need for a referral or diagnosis and the program is free. Sashbear understands that families are on the front line in the battle to fight mental illness and they need skills and understanding to support their loved ones and themselves. The program is in high demand as many health providers such as CAMH, SickKids, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) are referring families to it.

Sashbear is now offering programs in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.


Family Connections™ Alumni program starts Sept 12

If you have already taken Family Connections and want to keep your skills fresh, Sashbear is offering an Alumni program the first Wednesday of each month. Please do let us know you are coming and register online. If you forget to register and can make it, just show up. Snacks will be provided. Sessions will take place at Blessed Sacrament School, 24 Bedford Park Avenue (1 block north of Lawrence Ave, West of Yonge) Staff Room – 3rd Floor Rm 318

Here is the tentative schedule though there may be changes:

Sep 12  Basic assumptions and rights of relatives
Oct 3 Relationship Mindfulness Skills
Nov 7 Acceptance (Radical) and Change
Dec 5  Holidays tips

Jan 9  Open Topic
Feb 6  Validation (Validation vs Invalidation)
Mar 6  Validation Practice
Apr 3  Dear Man, Give, Fast
May 8  Behaviour Chain Analysis
Jun 5 Open Topic


Psychiatrist swims across Lake Superior
to raise money for Sashbear

Psychiatrist Marilyn Korzekwa swam across Lake Superior August 19 to raise money to support Sashbear. She left Whitefish Point, Michigan at 3:15 a.m. in the chilly blackness and arrived in the sunshine at the beautiful Pancake Bay, Ontario, 12 hours and 9 minutes later.  She is raising money for The Sashbear Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting families across Canada who have loved ones suffering with mental illness.

 Marilyn Korzekwa at Pancake Bay, Lake Superior   Marilyn Korzekwa is ecstatic to have conquered Lake Superior
     Photos by Kaija Siirala


The 29-kilometre swim across the mouth of Whitefish Bay, in the eastern end of Lake Superior, has never been done before, although the warmer western end (32km, Wisconsin to Minnesota) has been swum twice. Korzekwa says,” it was very hard to select a start date and time because the winds are unpredictable due to the geography of Whitefish Bay. I was very lucky to only have large waves throwing me around for 2 hours. Most of the swim, the waves were either behind me or it was flat. However, the water temperature was a cold 16.5 degrees Celsius most of the way across.”

Korzekwa, 61, has swum some of the most difficult bodies of water in the world.

Her achievements include being the first person to swim Lake Ontario in both directions. She still holds the Canadian record for the north to south swim at 21:00 hours. In 2015, Korzekwa was the first person to swim between three Provinces - Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (34 km, 16 hours 41 minutes, 16.5 degrees Celsius). On March 18, she became the first Canadian and the oldest woman to swim the icy (15 to 16 degrees Celsius) and turbulent Cook Strait between the south and north islands in New Zealand (11 hours 34 minutes).

“Lake Superior is a spectacularly beautiful lake, with crystal blue water, surrounded by hills and cliffs, and ringed by rugged rocks and sandy beaches. It makes me proud to be Canadian. I have wanted to do this swim for 20 years. I am ecstatic to have conquered Lake Superior.” She describes in her blog the meticulous planning that went into making this seemingly impossible swim a success, including a lot of research about the weather and finding the right crew. She credits her lead captain, David Steele, with making this swim possible and so successful. “He knows these waters and the winds inside out”.

Korzekwa also thanks her other captains, Doug Porter and the Sault Search and Rescue.

The swim was officiated by Solo Swims of Ontario, the governing body for swims across the Great Lakes, represented by Colleen Shields and Jodi DiLascio, Marilyn Bell’s daughter. Shields said, “Marilyn was on a mission. I have never seen her swim so fast”.

Korzekwa says she has chosen The Sashbear Foundation because it provides a free peer-led course called Family Connections that gives families the skills to become more effective in dealing with mental illness.  Funding will go towards Sashbear’s efforts to expand the program across Canada.  

“As a psychiatrist I know that helping families cope with their loved ones is life-changing,” says Korzekwa. The Sashbear program does not require a referral or diagnosis and the program is free.

To donate to Marilyn’s swim go to: 


For more information about the swim,


Families invited to participate in CAMH study

Families are invited to participate in an online survey as part of a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) project called Child and Youth Psychotherapy Experiences, (CAYPE).  The goal of the project is to improve mental health services for children and youth across the province.

This online survey is the second phase of the project and is focused on caregiver expectations and experiences. The first phase of the project which took place in 2016-2017 focused on service providers and the current phase is focusing on youth and caregiver expectations and experiences.

“The data on the issue of psychotherapy experience is missing right now,” says Kamna Mehra, Post-Doctoral (Research) Fellow at CAMH, who is working on the CAYPE project. 

The results of the project will be published as a scientific paper in peer-reviewed journals and will be shared at conferences.

The CAYPE project is being led by Joanna Henderson, Ph.D., Director, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth and Family Mental Health, CAMH.

The invitation from CAMH to participate in the survey is below.  Participants will be compensated with a $30 gift card.


We at CAMH are conducting a study to understand caregivers’ expectations and experiences of their children/youth with psychotherapy.

We are conducting an online survey with caregivers of children/youth who need/ have experienced psychotherapy.

The survey will take around 30-45 minutes and participants will be compensated with $30 gift card.

If caregivers are interested, they can provide us with their email address (for the survey) at and we will send them the link for the survey via email.

Looking forward to further communication,

CAYPE study team


What people are saying about the
Family Connections
™ program by Sashbear

We often receive letters from parents or caregivers who have taken the Sashbear Family Connections™ program. Here are three we have recently received.

Dear Sashbear

Family Connections was so valuable to me bringing back a sense of calm and hope in my life as it taught me effective coping skills like ODP, NOE, Dear Man, grieving, acceptance, and most important validation.

It gave me skills to communicate more effectively with my child, it gave me the chance to re connect with my child , the one I knew was still inside, I deal better with her because I have chosen empathy and I can understand her pain and she IS someone I LOVE.

I spent years in private therapy crying, confused, looking for an answer, I found it in Family Connections.

Hello Sashbear Family

“My daughter has had difficulties being social and fostering healthy relationships since grade one. She is currently in grade eleven. There has been a lot of laughter and tears through the years, it seemed though that the laughter became less, instead more tears and unexplained emotions that I couldn't seem to soothe. She was often described as the 'dramatic' one in the class, and is still labelled the same in school and in social settings. The first time my daughter cut herself was in September of grade 9. I really can not find the words to describe that day. The rest of that school year continued on with more self harming, my daughter loathing her father and I one moment and the next very loving and affectionate. We were scared, sad, angry and confused. We met with our family doctor, psychiatrists, a psychotherapist and counsellors, crisis workers, police officers, trauma specialist and the Children's Aid Society. These professionals offered their strategies, their knowledge, their time and prescriptions. Each visit brought minimal change with our daughter and with our family. On our second run to the hospital emergency department my daughter and I were put through the same hospital protocol as the very first visit. I hoped that this time we would be provided some sort of guidance on how to help protect my daughter. I asked the professionals, "what do I do, how do I help my daughter?" I was offered this advice, "lock up all your sharp objects". I had obviously done this already and the professional said, "that's good" and we were sent home with the number to crisis. Feeling completely angry, lost, defeated and uncertain, I started to search the Internet for answers. I found The Sashbear organization and discovered that a one night presentation, Rollercoaster Emotions, was being offered in my city. I attended the session and knew that I needed more.

Recently, I was able to participate in the Family Connections Program. The information and skills shared were invaluable. My entire being has changed as a result of taking part in this program. I was finally provided with tools that offered us hope, assisted us with change and a new found acceptance. I know that there are many challenges ahead, the difference now is I feel more empowered, and less afraid and angry. I will practice, practice, practice. 

Thank you for creating the material, the program and for sharing it with others.

—Amanda Valliere

To All At Sashbear

We are forever thankful for the training we received through Family connections. It gave us the best months with our son before his passing.

—Kelly and Stuart Maxwell


Sashbear has changed my life by helping my parents

And this is how.

By Bronwen

My family and I use to be in constant conflict for we could not find an effective way to communicate. At the time I didn’t realize how much my parents cared about me.  I thought that I didn’t matter to them. I believed that there was no one who truly cared about me except for one person, one of my teachers. After a while he began backing off from me and I didn’t know how to deal with this for I thought after he left, I’d be all alone. I knew that as long as I was struggling, he wouldn’t leave me. So I created a problem and made false allegations of abuse against my parents.

The police took me to the hospital and from there I went into  a residential treatment centre.  Meanwhile, my mother came across a website called Sashbear and found out about the Family Connections™ program and decided to sign my father and her up for it. During the 12-week program my parents learned skills to not only communicate with me but also to have a deeper understanding of who they are as individuals and how to accept the situation around them so as to reduce their suffering. I didn’t see the change throughout the process because I was in residential treatment and only saw them once a week.

When I did see the change I was living at home for a couple of months due to the fact that I was changing treatment centres. Throughout this two-month period my parents and I had a good relationship filled with open communication. Well, open communication after I  bought an iPod without my parents knowing. My dad found out by checking the devices connected to the internet. He asked me about it and I told him that we’d talk about it later. When I fearfully approached them to discuss the iPod I thought that they’d yell at me and that we would end up in a fight. I was flabbergasted when they weren’t mad but rather validated what I had done. That doesn’t mean that they agreed with me but they found the emotion behind why I had bought it. On that day they gained a lot of my trust and I started being open to them about my thoughts and feelings on things going on in my life. Our relationship changed for the better.

To this day I still tell them everything. It’s even gotten to the point where when I don’t know what to do with personal problems, I will willingly put the decision in my parents hands. Something I wouldn’t have done four years ago. This is how Sashbear has changed my life.


Interested in Finding out how to become an FC Facilitator?

FC Facilitator Information Session: Online, September 5 at 7pm

There is a huge and growing demand for the Family Connections™ program and so Sashbear is always recruiting new facilitators. Anyone who has taken the program and is interested in finding out how to become an FC facilitator is invited to join Sashbear’s FC director Rosanna Ruppert for an information session on Wed. Sept 5 at 7 pm EST for a phone-in meeting. Rosanna will discuss the process of becoming a facilitator and answer any questions or address any reservations you may have.

If you are an FC Alumni and you did not receive an invitation to this session, email


Save the Date!! 

Sashbear Walk 2019 • May 26, 2019

Heather Rider, right, Sashbear Walk Co-ordinator for 2017 and 2018, hands over the reins of leadership to Bev Petrovic who will be the SAshbear Walk Co-ordinator for 2019. The Annual Sashbear Walk is the main fundraiser for The Sashbear Foundation. Please mark May 26, 2019 in your calendars and join us.

Yours in skills and hope,

The Team at The Sashbear Foundation  |

The Sashbear Foundation is a volunteer-run Canadian Registered Charity

BN: 8233 90042 RR0001  DONATE NOW


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