Gary Mason and Tracey Paluck recently completed an impressive feat.
The Wetaskiwin residents walked from the Saskatchewan boundary to British Columbia, a distance of 376 kilometres, over 11 days to raise $10,000 for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada — a cause that’s important to Paluck and Mason.
Mason was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 25 years old and has been living with it ever since.
Paluck has ulcerative colitis, along with autoimmune issues, but that didn’t stop her from jumping at the chance to join Mason on the fundraising walk.
“I was like, ‘yeah, count me in,’” Paluck says about when Mason connected with her and asked if she would join him on the trek.
Although she was worried about completing the walk, she wanted to show her kids that if they want to, they can do anything.
“Whatever life and health allow, I’m up for it,” says Paluck. “I wanted to be able to claim I’ve done something slightly bigger than average.”
On Aug. 26, Mason and Paluck started their walk just east of Medicine Hat, at the Saskatchewan boundary, with plans to continue along the side of Highway 3 to their destination.
Mason says behind-the-scenes support was critical to their success, both physically and mentally.
While they had planned to camp along the route, a benefactor paid for them to stay in hotels and provided drivers to pick them up and drop them off.
Mason says that during their walk, they had many people who stopped to offer them a ride. The passersby would donate to the cause when they realized they were walking intentionally. One family even stopped to offer the walkers candy to lift their spirits.
Despite the support, it wasn’t always easy going.
Mason said the repetitiveness was part of the challenge, as the two would walk an average of 32 kilometres a day, and according to him, the landscape of the Alberta prairies don’t change that much.
Paluck herself was facing a difficult challenge. In addition to her arthritis, she was struggling with poor circulation in her hands and feet because of her autoimmune issues, causing quite a bit of her walk to be painful.
On Day 9, Paluck walked almost 15 kilometres with only one shoe on, because her foot was so swollen.
When the two reached the B.C. boundary on Sept. 7, they kept going until they reached the “Welcome to British Columbia” sign.
“We gave everything, every day,” says Mason.
“I have a newfound respect for others that walk,” says Paluck. “I was elated that we had taken on such a huge endeavour and we both made it.”