By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Many selfless individuals have stopped by Strathmore along their nation-wide journey in an attempt to raise money for a charity or a cause. But not many people make a second trip along the Trans-Canada Highway.
But that’s exactly what Jamie McDonald did when he popped into Holy Cross Collegiate Feb. 2 to speak to a group of students from Westmount, Sacred Heart and Holy Cross Collegiate schools.
“It’s certainly a lot easier to do it this way,” said McDonald via a phone call last week as he drove his blue Dodge Caravan across Saskatchewan.
His incredible story was aimed at a young audience, preaching to them to never give up and that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.
A little more than four years ago, McDonald made a pit stop in Strathmore during his cross-country run in an attempt to raise money for sick children and children’s hospitals in Canada. That time, he was running across Canada without the aid of a support team, all while wearing a superhero costume. McDonald was able to raise over $430,000 for children’s hospitals across Canada.
His new adventure kicked off Nov. 11 in St. John’s, Nfld. Two and a half months later, McDonald rolled into Strathmore, the same place where he made a connection with one local, Stacy Sorensen.
“There was this Facebook group called Momma Bears that was started by a lady in Manitoba. She started reaching out to people in towns as Jamie made his way across Canada, wondering if anyone could take him in for the night or provide him a hot meal,” said Sorensen, recalling that blizzardy night when they picked up the Englishman. “Janice Hart, Stacey Schuett and I went out and met him on his run, welcomed him in, fed him and gave him a place to stay.”
Sorensen was on hand for McDonald’s presentation last week. Also in attendance was one young student who claimed to remember the inaugural superhero run across Canada.
“It’s cool that Jamie came back. Speaking with him last night at dinner, he remembers everything from his first trip,” said Sorensen. “He remembers all the kids — my kids — small towns and every school along the way. I don’t think he was able to appreciate the great things that Canada offered last time for obvious reasons. This time, I think he is taking his time to get to know the country a lot better.”
Back then, after McDonald dipped his hand in the Atlantic Ocean, he headed west, making sure to stop by schools and hospitals in small towns to spread his message.
It certainly wasn’t easy. Running with no support team, McDonald recalled times of chronic foot pain, severe frostbite and meals, consuming spoonfuls of butter while camping roadside.
McDonald entertained and tried to inspire hope in kids who may have been down on their luck or were dealt a bad hand – similar to himself once upon a time. He wanted to show them that anything was possible no matter how difficult a situation.
McDonald hails from Gloucester, England, and grew up with syringomyelia – a rare disorder in which a cyst formed on his spinal cord, damaging it from the inside out – and managed to overcome his problems that slowed him down for the first nine years of his life, and turned into a real-life superhero.
Now 31, McDonald recalls not having to search far for inspiration for his initial jaunt across Canada.
“My mom and I googled Terry Fox and found a documentary about him … (we) were brought to tears,” said McDonald. “I was incredibly inspired. A few weeks later, I flew to St. John’s to start my run.”
The Englishman is no stranger to marathon exercise sessions. He previously rode a second-hand bike 14,000 miles from Bangkok to his hometown. Still not satisfied, he hopped on a stationary bike and set a new world record for static cycling with a time of 268 hours, 32 minutes and 44 seconds.
All incredible achievements considering McDonald was in a wheelchair for his formative youth.
Now, McDonald is back again to spread his story along with his new book, Adventureman: The Astonishing True Story – all while wearing a different superhero costume.
“Anyone can be a superhero if they put their mind to it,” said McDonald.
To date, the second nationwide tour has raised a few thousand dollars. McDonald plans to donate half of the money raised to different children’s hospitals around the country and half to his Superhero Foundation. He will also be donating hundreds of books to hospitals for kids to read and draw inspiration from long after he has rolled through town.
As for his next adventure, McDonald will dip his hand in the Pacific Ocean again, before heading south into the United States, all the way down to California before heading east and eventually wrapping up in the northeast where he will dip his hand in the Atlantic Ocean — the same place this great North American journey all started.