They began walking shortly after sunrise Friday—a yellow homemade sign the only indication of their starting point on the quiet River Road.
Hours later, almost 20 people arrived at North American Lumber here after walking, jogging, and running 20 miles in the third-annual Tom Bruyere Walk for Dialysis.
The walk, which supports the dialysis wing at La Verendrye Hospital here, raised about $11,500 this year.
Despite six hours of walking, Bruyere was beaming as he rounded the corner into the North American Lumber parking lot Friday afternoon with the last of the participants.
“I’m feeling great now that I got the knots out of my legs,” he chuckled. “I’ve had diabetes for a long time and a [heart] bypass seven years ago so this is a challenge.”
But Bruyere said the effort was well worth it if it keeps the dialysis wing at La Verendrye going.
Bruyere started the fundraiser in 2000 and planned on walking 20 miles in an effort to raise $2,000. That first year he surprised even himself by raising more than $5,000.
Since then, the event has expanded and this year about 20 people walked, ran, or jogged with Bruyere, helping him raise well over his goal of $10,000.
The funds raised will go towards the aboriginal communities’ continued support of the dialysis wing.
“My mom was diagnosed with kidney failure and is on dialysis now. I heard about Tom’s walk and my wife and I thought we’d walk along with Tom and contribute to the cause,” said Armand Jourdain Sr., who completed the trek with Bruyere.
“I think that it’s quite important that the district have dialysis here,” he added. “My mom would be in Thunder Bay or Winnipeg getting treatments if not for dialysis here and that would be hard for the family.
“This way, it is keeping the family together.”
Fellow walker Joyous Bragg said she participated in the event because it was dedicated to the later Metta Visser, who had spearheaded the drive to bring dialysis treatments to the district before succumbing to kidney disease earlier this year.
“I did it for Metta,” she said. “And she’d be happy for us.”
Richard Visser, Metta’s husband, also took part in the walk. “You know she would have enjoyed it,” he said afterwards.
Visser said he was extremely thankful for everyone who got out to support the dialysis program.
“If it hadn’t been for the help of these people, there probably wouldn’t have been dialysis in Fort Frances,” he remarked.
For 20 months, the Vissers travelled to Thunder Bay three times a week for Metta’s treatments.
“Travelling to Thunder Bay, it was a 15-hour day and the next day you were just getting ready to go again,” he recalled.
“Having it here means quite a bit. You can keep up some of your life. It still takes a lot of time but it doesn’t take all your time,” he noted.
The walkers were all smiles as they soaked their feet, nursed blisters, and feasted on orange slices Friday afternoon knowing their journey would mean dialysis patients could stay close to home for treatment.