Camping out under the stars at the Albion Fairgrounds and running along the picturesque dikes of Pitt Meadows were among the highlights for a group of Williams Lake residents who trotted into Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows on Thursday, and stayed much of the weekend.
But the piece de resistance came Saturday, when this troupe of 65 young runners - ranging in age from six to 16 - as well as their entourage of chauffeuring parents, grandparents, and friends - arrived at BC Children's Hospital. The participating kids proudly announced, before a large audience of hospital staff, that their fundraising run generated in excess of $77,500 to help sick kids in B.C.
The group, calling themselves Kids Running For Kids, is from the Cariboo area of the province, and on June 30 they departed from Williams Lake in a convoy of family vehicles bound for Vancouver.
The eight-day, 4,000-kilometre trek - which included runs in both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows on Friday - was intended to raise money for BC Children's Hospital since several of the participating young runners had actually used the services of the hospital in the past.
Originally, the plan was to run about five kilometres a day along the Trans-Canada Highway through communities en route between Williams Lake and the Vancouver hospital. They weren't even expected to come to Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows.
But as the numbers of young participants grew, safety became more critical, said Sue Kennedy, one of the organizers. Consequently, the group chose to veer off into smaller communities that would allow children to run on tracks, roads, or paths in 108 Mile, Clinton, Cache Creek, Lytton, Boston Bar, Harrison Hot Springs, and Mission.
After their first night of camping in tents and trailers at the Albion Fairgrounds on Thursday, the team gathered at Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge early Friday morning. They ran a few laps around the park and were greeted by Mayor Ernie Daykin and several kids and staff from the leisure centre, before heading west to run a six-kilometre section of the dikes between Jerry Sulina Park at 210th Street and Menzies Park at Harris Road.
By the time they reached the end of Friday's leg of the run - and before heading to a barbecue lunch hosted by the Golden Ears Kiwanis at Pitt Meadows Spirit Square - organizers were boasting that they'd almost surpassed $55,000 - a far cry from their original $25,000 fundraising target.
Young event founders Cade Enns, 11, and his eight-year-old brother Finley, were elated by the success.
The idea took root last year, when Cade's school hosted a cross-country run, and a number of families participated.
"Everyone thought how great it was," he recalled, noting that a short time later he and his mother heard about a Vernon family running for the Terry Fox Foundation. That's when their family started planning a fundraising run of their own.
"We wanted to do something really good like that," Cade said, explaining how they quickly pulled in other local families and picked the children's hospital as a charity of choice.
"It's turned out great. We've had lots of fun," Cade told The TIMES Friday, in advance of Saturday's cheque presentation.
"I know that when we get to the hospital and see all those kids and see how happy they are that we're there and that we helped, that will be the best part," Cade said.
And it was. They were treated to a thank you lunch and a tour of the hospital.
The kids were still beaming Monday, back home in Williams Lake, realizing that with money still coming in that they could actually surpass the $100,000 mark.
"Our parents have taught us not to run away from our problems, so we have decided to run to try to solve them," their Facebook page says.
They are still collecting donations for a few weeks, at www.bcchf.ca/kidsrunningforkids.
One of the organizers, Liselle Pierce, expressed the group's gratitude to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows for not only hosting two legs of the run, but for allowing the giant caravan of pickup trucks and trailers to set up at the fairgrounds.
It was ideal, Pierce said. It was a "vast" space that allowed all of the Williams Lake participants some privacy while giving them a safe space to come together Thursday through Saturday nights.
Pierce was also impressed by the way the community stepped up to make them feel welcome, noting that companies like Beat Trix DJ services coming out for seven hours on Saturday night to entertain, and Land Yachtz hosting a long board demostration that the kids loved.
"It was just a fabulous experience overall, one that none of us will ever forget," Pierce said. "And what an amazing, inspiring group of kids. They're our superheroes."