By Brendan Ahern
A Cape Breton man will run 272 kilometres over seven days to raise funds for cancer sufferers.
“Honestly, I’ve never run a marathon before,” said Will Brien, which is a brave admission for someone preparing to run the equivalent of a marathon every day for seven days.
On Friday, Brien will start running at the Canso Causeway and will cross the finish line on April 20 at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Lodge That Gives in Halifax.
“That first day will be the longest I’ve ever run,” said Brien in an interview.
Brien, 23, is doing this to raise money for cancer patients who must travel long distances for treatment.
“There’s lots of funding in Canada for cancer treatment but there’s a gap in funding for transit,” said Brien, who organized the fundraiser with his roommate Shaun McNeil.
“I’ve had close family members, but also friends and neighbours get diagnosed and have seen them having to travel for treatment when they couldn’t afford it,” said Brien. “We knew we wanted to do something for them because we knew we could.”
Brien and McNiel’s fundraiser, Kommute for a Kause, is inspired by Brien’s university friend, Maike van Niekerk. In 2014 van Niekerk cycled from St. Anthony, N.L, to St. John’s, raising money for people who need to travel for treatment. Van Niekerk named her fundraiser after her mother Katrin Kohler who passed away from breast cancer in 2011.
“I met Maike at Dalhousie. We were neighbours in residence. That was when she was planning her fundraiser in Newfoundland.”
In 2014 Katrin’s Kare Package raised $35,000 after van Niekerk’s bike ride which, incidentally, was also the first time she had ridden a bicycle over long distances.
Then, in 2016, Maike ran seven marathons in seven days, raising an additional $20,000.
“She wanted to move it into Nova Scotia, so we came up with this idea to start our own charity,” said Brien.
Brien, who works for the Canadian Armed Forces, is a native of Cape Breton and his run will begin on the island side of the causeway. The money raised will be for anyone in the province who travels more than 50 kilometres for cancer treatment.
Jaime Legere, the director of development for the Canadian Cancer Society in Nova Scotia, says that efforts like Brien’s have a tremendous impact on the people affected.
“This will be extremely helpful. Because the cost that people incur when they’re going back and forth for appointments, depending on where they’re coming from, can be quite substantial,” said Legere.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s Lodge That Gives accommodates individuals who must travel more than 50 kilometers to Halifax for treatment.
“One in two people are going to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. What they’re going through emotionally, physically and financially is quite a burden. So, this makes a big difference. Every donation counts towards helping people,” said Legere.
With days left before his run, Brien has been going over the final details. And he’s been in touch with his university friend, van Niekerk.
“She’s set the bar,” said Brien before adding jokingly, “she doesn’t think I’ll be able to do it, but we’ll see.”
Donations to Kommute for a Kause can be made at its website.