Spencer West has travelled from Edmonton to Lacombe, with more to come, and boy are his arms tired.
He had his legs at amputated because of a genetic disorder — at the age of two they were removed to the knee, then at the age of five they were removed just below his pelvis. Although he had tried prosthetics at one point, they weren’t for him.
Instead, the 31-year-old Wyoming-born Toronto resident relies on his hands or a wheelchair to move around and that’s the way he likes it.
“I had prosthetics as a kid, but they were hard to use,” said West. “It was so much faster for me to get around on my hands. I remember as a kid the doctors told my parents, ‘Every kid wants to walk.’ But I walk already, why do I need to walk on legs?”
But this hasn’t slowed West down who by Saturday will be at the mid-point of a 300-km awareness and fundraising walk from Edmonton to Calgary.
We Walk 4Water aims to raise awareness and funds in support of a Free the Children campaign to provide clean water for life to 100,000 people around the world.
“We wanted to jump on board with that and thought why don’t we come to Alberta,” said West.
“For Kilimanjaro so many people wanted to get involved with us, but we couldn’t actually let the people climb the mountain with us.
“While we can’t let anyone walk with us (this year), we can still have face-to-face time.”
Last year, he and friends David Johnson and Alex Meers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
“It’s a lot harder than we thought,” said West of this month’s trek. “We’re doing about 28 to 31 km a day. We’re a lot more sore than we anticipated.”
West said the support they’ve received has been tremendous, with people driving up the highway and stopping on the side of the road to give a donation.
“There was one little kid that was riding a bike, chasing after the RV, yelling ‘Stop, stop, wait!’ ” said West. “He gave us five bucks. The support here has been amazing.”
To help protect his hands while he’s walking on the pavement, he does wear gloves. And some of the time he uses his wheelchair.
“We’re walking across Alberta to try to simulate how far women and girls have to walk for water,” said West. “We’re hoping people will follow our journey and be inspired to do something on their own.”
Training for this 300-km walk has been mostly about stretching — the preparation had West using rings, stretching his arms, doing upside-down pull-ups and getting his joints pliable and easy to stretch.
On Thursday, West and his friends walked for about 30 km in the Ponoka area and stopped at Ponoka Elementary School.
Nicole Rawlinson, assistant principal, said having West stop at the school was about teaching her students more than just subjects.
“Knowing that no matter how small they might be or what kind of challenges they have that any dream they have or anything they want to do to make a difference, no matter how small or big, they can do it,” said Rawlinson.
West and the We Walk 4Water team will stopp in Red Deer on Saturday from noon to 12:45 p.m. at the Subway Restaurant, which is one of the sponsors for the walk, at 139 Leva Ave. in Gasoline Alley.
To donate to the cause, people can contribute at the event or go online to www.freethechildren.com/wewalk4water.