Events

Canadians walk shoulder to shoulder to recognize those who serve

Above image: courtesy of Canadian Walk for Veterans Facebook page. A family participates in this year’s walk. 

The Canadian Walk for Veterans (CWFV) is an opportunity for Canadians to walk shoulder to shoulder in recognition of those who have or are serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans, and First Responders, as well as to learn about the challenges of coping with life after service.

On September 26 and 27, 2020, the third annual CWFV took place.

“Earlier this year a new not-for-profit society, One Veteran Society, was formed to own the Canadian Walk For Veterans trademark, host the annual event and, over time, grow it to be in every city in Canada,” explained Chance Burles, Canadian Walk for Veterans national organizer.

While the event is primarily a recognition and appreciation event, it is also an opportunity to raise funds for other organizations doing great work for veterans and first responders. The net proceeds from each year’s walk go to a different organization each year.

The theme changes every year, with this year dedicated to those who rise to the challenge of Service Before Self: serving military, military veterans, first responders, and all front-line workers who sacrifice themselves to keep Canadians safe and secure.

While the event is primarily a recognition and appreciation event, it is also an opportunity to raise funds for other organizations doing great work for veterans and first responders. The net proceeds from each year’s walk go to a different organization each year.

“Last year net proceeds went to three organizations who work with veterans and first responders to help them develop the tools they need to combat PTSD: Honour House in New Westminster BC, Camp My Way a wilderness camp in B.C. and Rally Point Retreat in Lockeport, NS,” says Burles.

This year the net proceeds will go to Courageous Companions based in Saint Albert, Alberta. Their mission is to provide top quality service dogs to help Military Veterans and First Responders live full and meaningful lives.

The first Walk For Veterans was held as a fundraiser at Central Park, Burnaby B.C., for Equitas Society. They were suing the Canadian government on behalf of disabled veterans who were being under-compensated due to the changes made with the introduction of the New Veterans Charter in 2006.

“Traditionally, the walk has been held in cities across the country, but this year because of COVID-19, we went virtual which expanded the walk from our planned 14 locations across the country to over 120 cities across the country and as far away as Florida, Michigan, Melbourne Australia, and Holland,” he happily informed.

“It was a great success with over 150 participants and all major TV, radio and print media showing up. It occurred to the organizer and Equitas Society’s president Marc Burchell that this event had national potential. Rather than it being a fundraiser for Equitas Society, it needed to be changed to a recognition and appreciation event allowing veterans and first responders to walk shoulder to shoulder with other veterans and first responders and sharing their experiences with the general public,” Burles informed.

Consequently, an additional six cities were planned for the next year coast to coast from Victoria to St Johns and Fredericton, and the name of the event was changed to the Canadian Walk For Veterans.

People of all ages and backgrounds anywhere can participate in the CWFV. Burles says since they held the walk virtually this year, they had participants attend from greater distances.

“Traditionally, the walk has been held in cities across the country, but this year because of COVID-19, we went virtual which expanded the walk from our planned 14 locations across the country to over 120 cities across the country and as far away as Florida, Michigan, Melbourne Australia, and Holland,” he happily informed.

Participants were asked to share their CWFV experience through pictures and videos, which were shared on theirs and the CWFV social media.

Burles says he thinks an event like this is important because the Canadian public tends to think of veterans as their elders from the Second World War and Korean War and pay tribute to them on Remembrance Day.

He continued to state, “They forget that we have a new generation of veterans, many who fought in the longest war in Canadian history, Afghanistan. Remembrance Day is very formal. It is a time to honour and remember the fallen. The Canadian Walk For Veterans allows the Canadian public to connect with their veterans, walk with them, talk with them, and learn from them about the challenges of being a veteran today.”

The organization’s goal is to expand the event by making it an annual event in every Canadian city to recognize serving military, veterans, and first responders.

“We invite the general public to walk shoulder to shoulder with them, hear their stories, learn and have the opportunity to thank them for their contribution in making Canada the greatest country in the world,” Burles added.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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