‘Best week of my year’: Island’s Wounded Warrior Run BC gets going in Port Hardy

'Best week of my year': Island's Wounded Warrior Run BC gets going in Port Hardy
John W. Penner
Photo: John W. Penner/John's Photography

Runners put their best foot forward in Port Hardy Sunday morning as Wounded Warriors crossed the start line, kicking off a days-long trek to south Vancouver Island.

The Wounded Warrior Run BC, now in its 11th year, commenced around 7:30 a.m. at Port Hardy’s Carrot Park. The runners will be stopping in various communities before arriving in Victoria next Sunday, March 3, all for a good cause.

That’s 800 kilometres in eight consecutive days, with seven participants this year, according to photographer and support-team member John Penner, who’s been involved with the run, or “relay-style challenge,” since its inception.

Usually, there are eight runners, but for the 2024 run there are seven.

“Quite honestly, it’s the best week of my year and has been for the past 11 years,” Penner told CHEK News Sunday. “It’s something that I think is incredibly important, and I feel very grateful that I can come out and do this every year.”

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Funds raised during the Island-based run will go to Wounded Warriors Canada, a nationally-recognized mental health service provider dedicated to serving ill and injured Trauma Exposed Professionals (TExPs) and their families.

“Our mission is to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warriors Canada, who provide programming for veterans and first responders who are suffering from operational stress injuries, PTSD and things like that,” said Penner.

Tens of thousands of dollars have already been raised this year alone.

“Right now, we’ve probably already raised $60,000,” said Penner, adding that people can donate online or in person at the various stops.

“People can donate online at woundedwarriorscanada.ca, there are lots of people donating directly to us as we go through,” he said. “Legions, Lions Clubs are raising money and making just amazing donations to the runs.”

The Royal Canadian Legion on East Wellington Road in Nanaimo is inviting the public to the branch as they host the runners on Friday, March 1. They’ll be there between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

The Nanaimo Legion’s president, Laurie Grubb, recalled the history of the run, saying it “was created by two service members eager to do something to help in reaction to a rash of suicides in the Canadian Armed Forces…They set out on a mission to run the length of Vancouver Island with a team of four and raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warriors Canada.”

The run got going three weeks after Wounded Warriors’ one-day Sooke to Sidney event was held on Feb. 4 to honour first responders.

‘Driven to empower others’

A Comox Valley RCMP member is one of the runners this year, and he says personal experiences motivated him to take part.

“Policing is an extremely rewarding career; however, the reality that cannot be ignored is that it comes with regular exposure to trauma, horrific scenes, and dangerous situations,” said RCMP Sgt. Rob Brennan in a news release.

“Over the course of my career, I have observed many members who have suffered immensely as a result of the mental toll this takes on one’s mind. I have a passion, and I am driven to empower others to open up about their struggles, seek assistance, and overcome challenges.”

The full list of runners and their bios are here.

Each year, it takes a team to bring the run to fruition and ensure runners’ safety, says Penner. He’s the one behind the camera, capturing the event as it unfolds.

“We’ve got dedicated RCMP and BC Ambulance staff who are part of the team. They provide the safety with the lights and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “And we’ve got people like myself who do other jobs like photography and coordinating.”

Wounded Warrior Run BC 2024 schedule:

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