Nine months, 4,000 kilometres and 12 communities later, Williams Lake’s Kids Running for Kids inspirational journey came to an end Saturday at Vancouver’s BC Children’s Hospital.
The group of 65 runners aged five to 18 personally delivered a cheque for more than $77,000 to the hospital after running and fundraising in communities along the way throughout the week.
Rya Enns, who formed KRFK last October after hearing about a Vernon family running from Vernon to Vancouver for Terry Fox, said the events experienced along the way were simply amazing.
KRFK embarked on their trek following the Stampede Parade and ran in communities including the 108 Heritage Site, Clinton, Cache Creek, Kumsheen, Boston Bar, Harrison Hot Springs, Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission.
“They [the kids] were called heroes, ambassadors and role models [by speakers in various communities],” Enns said.
However, the description of the group that stood out most, Enns said, was coined by a speaker in Harrison Hot Springs.
“One of the people said what you guys are doing is magnanimous,” she said. “They said to the kids that means giving without expecting anything in return, so that was kind of the word we used for the week.”
Enns said there were many highlights along the way; however, the excitement began in Williams Lake after being introduced on the big screen during Friday’s Williams Lake Stampede performance.
Saturday that excitement continued when KRFK runners met and rode with a special guest, Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price, on their Stampede Parade float.
“Carey was awesome,” she said. “He got to every single one of the kids and signed their shirts, their hats, their coats and it was so amazing for them.”
Following the parade KRFK were sent off from the Williams Lake secondary track by local bagpipers, city council, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, parents, peers and spectators.
They continued running in communities along their route, battling injuries, and even running alongside other kids who had used BC Children’s Hospital in the past, in those communities.
“Lots of communities were really supportive in making sure they had people there to cheer us along,” Enns said. “And having those kids run with them from other communities was a highlight for the kids because they were able to sort of put a face to why they were doing this.”
Leo Facio, the mayor of Harrison Hot Springs, hosted a special celebration for the group upon their arrival.
“It was incredible,” she said. “They had pipers that piped us down the street, there were some kid dancers from the First Nations community there, and then they had a concert and it was all kid performers, so that was really neat.”
On their final day, 400 metres before reaching BC Children’s Hospital, KRFK regrouped one last time. They decided to run together for the last leg of the journey.
KRFK raised an additional $15,000 by fundraising throughout the week on their run — an amount that will be matched by CN Rail.
“They were so excited and proud,” Enns said. “There were people gathered there cheering when we arrived. Everyone was tired, but we all did it together. Some of the big kids were piggy backing the little kids and it just showed how cohesive we’d become as a group.”
At BC Children’s Hospital all KRFK runners were given superhero capes to wear during their stay. Langara-Vancouver MLA Moira Stilwell said a few words, along with two representatives from the hospital, before the cheque presentation.
“We were there for about three hours and they gave us a tour, we walked through the hospital, we heard some amazing stories and talked to some of the kids,” she said. “To have all these little faces looking at us, it was pretty special for the kids.”
Along the way tallies were kept of how far each KRFK member ran. At the end of the journey they were each presented with their sheets. Enns said most of the kids ran at least a marathon with some of the older runners reaching the equivalent of two marathons over the week-long excursion.
“Even some of the five-year-olds had ran more than 10 kilometres,” she said.
Enns suspects by the time all fundraising totals are tallied the group will have raised more than $100,000. Additionally, she said Caribou Ski Source for Sports and Adidas contributed significant sponsorship donations including KRFK track suits, hats and shirts.
Looking back on the trip, she hopes others were inspired by what KRFK achieved.
“We were inspired by one family [in Vernon],” she said. “Someone said to us imagine all the families you guys have inspired.
“Everyone was asking us if we were going to do something like this again. The friendship and the camaraderie we experienced along the way was amazing.”