Military and first responder teams walk from Petawawa, Ont. to Ottawa
Walkers taking on the second leg of the Walk for the Wounded, leaving Beachburg, Ont. (Dylan Dyson / CTV News Ottawa)
PETAWAWA, ONT. -- Going for a nice walk sounds like a good way to spend the Labour Day long weekend. Walking 170 kilometres from Petawawa to Ottawa, not so much.
That’s the challenge 38 active and retired military members and first responders are taking on Saturday and Sunday, raising money for Wounded Warriors Canada.
The Walk for the Wounded started in 2020 with four retired CFB Petawawa members taking on the entire journey themselves. This year, teams of military, police, fire, and EMS members are splitting the walk; eight teams of four members each, with each member walking a marathon’s length.
“It’s a full 26 miles plus wearing a 20-pound tactical vest, and doing 22 push-ups every kilometre,” explained Corey MacNeil, who is an Acting Sergeant with the Ottawa Police Service. “So it’s going to, for lack of a better word, suck really bad.”
MacNeil will be walking the final leg for his team Sunday, which ends on Parliament Hill.
“We wanted to find something that brings people as a team together and kind of bring teams against each other in a competitive nature,” Dylan Pace, one of the founders of the Walk for the Wounded, told CTV News.
“For one, a lot of veterans end up going into a first responder role. Beyond that, first responders show up every day to do their job. The mental health aspect isn’t just focusing on one or the other, but that community [of first responders] in itself is going to understand each other the best anyone else can,” said Pace.
For people taking part like MacNeil, it’s a cause that hits close to home.
“I spent seven years in Petawawa in the infantry with the First Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment. Many friends, coworkers perished over in Afghanistan and still are suffering from traumatic injuries.”
MacNeil said starting the weekend journey in Petawawa was cathartic for him. “Just going back to Petawawa you see a lot of ghosts, and it is helpful. It keeps you in touch with your past.”
Andrea Coutu, a paramedic in Ottawa, completed the first leg of the walk for her team.
“I’m not bad but I’m definitely feeling it. Started at 5 a.m. together, stuck together [with the other teams] the entire time.”
But for her teammate and coworker, Matt Friesen, who is taking on the next leg, it’s expected to be a long eight hours ahead.
“I’m expecting some heat and some distance. I think it’s probably going to be tougher than I think,” laughed Friesen. “Three of my coworkers are actually in the reserves. So I’m out here to support them, and support everyone else in the military.”
This year’s Walk for the Wounded has raised over $60,000, with Pace hoping to hit $70,000 by the time they finish walking Sunday.
For Coutu, she knows her pain and sweat today will help her coworkers in need of support tomorrow.
“It’s so important; you see it all the time at work, so it’s good to raise awareness for it.”