A SAIT T-Rex marches up mountains in the Calgary region to encourage people, young and old, to get out for fresh air, and to kick depression to the curb.
Richard Pastores, 28, is a SAIT student in the school of business, majoring in accounting. He is the aforementioned T-Rex, known as “Dino-Guy.”
Pastores goes on hikes up mountains, and at certain points, he will put on his dinosaur suit and encourage anyone passing him by.
“Whenever I see kids, I have this thought that I’m going to get ahead of them, I’m going to wait for them, and I’m going dress up and I’ll say high five to these kids, saying a good job for climbing this mountain,” said Pastores.
Bringing matters of importance together
The idea came about when he wanted to combine two areas of importance for him: exercise and mental health awareness.
“We’re in Alberta. Alberta has Drumheller. And what’s in Drumheller? Dinosaurs,” said Pastores.
With the rockies nearby, and the idea of dinosaurs in his mind, Pastores reached out to a friend to borrow their inflatable-dinosaur suit.
“Sometimes it’s treacherous,” said Pastores when asked if there are any risks involved.
“Kids will chase me sometimes and poke at me with sticks. Moving fast is hard to do, and their parents will end up chasing them.”
When he hikes the mountains with his dino-suit, his pack ends up weighing 30-40 lbs. The suit itself is hard to see through, and hiking with the suit on is a challenge physically for Pastores.
“That’s one of the reasons why you stairmaster,” said Pastores with a laugh.
Pastores does this because he wants to get young people excited to hike and spend time outside, enjoying the fresh air. He does this because it helped him during trying times in his life.
“It all comes down to my mental health,” said Pastores.
Exercise became a hobby for Pastores to deal with his depression. It was one method that became a consistent part of his day-to-day.
“Whenever I start lifting weights, it makes me feel happy for that whole hour,” said Pastores.
“The problem is after an hour [the feeling] was gone, so I’m trying to figure out how I could extend that feeling. That’s when a friend of mine introduced me to hiking.”
Pastores has become an avid hiker with six years of experience, and he provides people with advice and guidance on best practices for hiking.
“My DMs (direct messages) are always open, even if you’re not following that account,” said Pastores.
Hiking for a cause
Pastores has gained the attention of mental health organizations and charities in the province. He has partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Calgary Food Bank, Calgary Counselling Centre, Make a Wish Foundation, and his very first organization, Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.
Kids Cancer Care was the first time he started a fundraiser, and it was also when he learned that anyone could start a fundraiser.
“I thought fundraisers are mostly being done by like, rich people,” said Pastores.
Pastores reached out to Camp Kindle, a campsite that provides a fun and safe space for kids with cancer, and he offered to help them out by raising money for them in 2018.
He has raised over $4,000 for the organizations, with $2000 for the Calgary Food Bank in 2020.
“Only he can pull this off,” said Erin Mergen, a classmate of Pastores’ in the SAIT School of Business.
“I think it is really important. I think students should be really informed about this and see the importance of this initiative.”
The support on Pastores’ Instagram account has grown steadily, and he has had many articles written about his efforts. He said an article was found all the way in China.
“Whenever I see people around me, like smiling or laughing, it makes me feel like I’ve done something good,” said Pastores.
Keep on climbing those hills
Pastores wants to grow his cause and help more people by turning this fun activity into an organization.
“I want to buy a long bus and renovate it,” said Pastores.
“Maybe in the near future, I’ll have this bus that I could bring, let’s say, 20 people to go hiking with me.”
Through this, he could combine his teaching efforts around hiking, and have an engaged community of people hiking to support a cause, but to also have a safe space to share.
“I want them to be open that when they’re out there, they can just dump everything when they’re out there,” said Pastores.
The outdoors can prove an opportunity to let their frustrations out, to release their tension with exercise, and to “scream at the top of the mountain,” according to Pastores.
“There’s more to life than staying in the city.”
His wish is to see hiking become an opportunity to talk, share, and be open with those around them, but also with nature.
The next organization for Pastores’ fundraising efforts is working with AHS and the Calgary Cancer Centre that is being built at the Foothills Medical Centre. The centre is expected to be finished by the fall of 2023.
“The fact that people actually know that I’m going for a hike and loving my content just makes me think that as long as there’s one person that supports me, I’ll keep doing this.”
Alejandro Melgar is a second-year graduating student in the online-print journalism stream. He is the editor-in-chief of The Emery Weal and contributor. You can find his work on LiveWire Calgary and on his website here.