Every year, the CancerCare Manitoba Foundation runs Challenge for Life, a fundraising/awareness event whereby walkers commit to raising $1,000 for CancerCare Manitoba while also taking an active role in maintaining their physical health, thus reducing their risk of getting cancer.
This year, Challenge for Life culminates on June 8 with a 20-kilometre walk, beginning and ending at Assiniboine Park.
Louise Raber and her team, Nancy’s Nightingales, have been participating in the Challenge since day one. The group of nurses walks in honour of Nancy, a mutual friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago (she’s since recovered). One of the team members, Harriet Lyons, is also a cancer survivor.
"Harriet says ‘All I have to do is get cancer and look at all the money I raised’," says Raber, 64
"Last year the money couldn’t come in fast enough, which really helped her. That might sound stupid, how can money help her heal? Well, it helps you mentally heal. Physical, mental, it all goes together."
Speaking of healing, Raber says the 20-km walk itself is therapeutic and inspiring.
"It’s early in the morning and you’re standing there with hundreds of people, some dressed alike, some walking alone, and they start yelling out ‘Why are we walking? Because we can!’," Raber says, noting that all of the Nightingales are over 50 years old, a couple of them approaching 70.
"Your heart pounds when the Daiko drummers are out there. They can give anyone an incentive to walk. You just feel like you can keep walking and not ever stop."
In addition to raising money and promoting a healthy lifestyle, the Challenge creates friendships. Raber says not all of the Nightingales knew each other before the Challenge, but now they’re all the best of friends. And then there are the people you meet on the walk.
"One of our team members met a woman on the walk who’s since passed away," Raber says.
"This woman pulled herself out of bed to stand and wait to see her friend, our team member, walk by. There wasn’t a dry eye around.
"It’s very special. Whether you’re walking or a volunteer, everybody just puts something into it because they can and it’s going to help in some way. If one life is saved, it’s all worth it."
For more information on Challenge for Life call 204-927-LIFE (5433) and visit www.challengeforlife.ca.