The Kendra’s Walk committee from St. John’s-Ravenscourt school reached out to me to help amplify their message. They will host their 12th annual walk to raise awareness and support cancer research on Friday.
The walk was started in 2009 by Kendra McBain, a student who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, three years earlier, when she was 15. Her initial goal of starting this fundraiser was to raise enough money to create a teen room at CancerCare Manitoba.
Kendra launched the first walk — with the help of her family, friends and the St. John’s-Ravenscourt community — as a way to give back to a place where she had spent many hours of her young life. She wanted to make sure that people her age going through cancer treatment would have a comfortable place to be at CancerCare Manitoba. It was also a way to celebrate what seemed like the end of her battle. More than 2,000 people showed up, most dressed in purple, to walk in support of Kendra and her cause. They raised more than $160,000 — much more than her $10,000 goal. The proceeds were more than enough to finance the space she had dreamed of.
A few months after the walk, the McBain family found out Kendra’s treatment wasn’t successful, and the outlook was grim.
In a 2009 interview, after receiving her palliative cancer diagnosis, Kendra said, "It may be a short and happy life. I love my life. I always remember that."
Kendra died on Dec. 20, 2009 at age 18.
The shortness of her life is unfair, but the impact Kendra made and the legacy she created still shine brightly. She etched a path that St. John’s-Ravenscourt students have followed year after year, fulfilling Kendra’s wish that the walk would live on.
This year, the walk committee, made up of eight Grade 11 and 12 students, had to set up a virtual event because of the pandemic.
I met with the group — Anya Aaron, Divya George, Saif Goubran, Kirsty Marshall, Ava Olin, Danae Pepelassis, Isabella Pewarchuk and Kevin Wu, as well as staff adviser Rebecca Powell and Kendra’s mom, Tammy — in a Zoom call. We spoke about the walk, about Kendra, and about why this means so much to them. Kendra’s walk has been a big part of their lives. A few of the committee members were at the first walk. They were in kindergarten, unaware of what it represented. They have participated year after year and have come to understand the importance of keeping the walk going. They feel it’s important to keep the connection and community spirit alive as the entire world navigates through the pandemic.
This year, we are all invited to take part in Kendra’s Walk at 2 p.m. Friday. Wear purple, go for a walk and tag your friends on Instagram using the hashtag #KW2021 to encourage them to do the same. The committee has also organized a bake-off, where people are invited to bake Kendra’s Walk-themed items and post them online using the hashtag #KWalkBakeOff for a chance to win a prize package. Entries for the bake-off will be accepted until midnight on Friday.
Raising money for cancer research is always welcome, but this year, the group is focused on raising awareness, building a sense of community and keeping Kendra’s legacy alive.
Follow @KendrasWalk on Instagram, find them on Facebook, or go to kendraswalk.com.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley Cook is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press and manages the paper's Reader Bridge project, which seeks to expand coverage of underserved communities.