SURREY – Children at South Meridian Elementary school in South Surrey were given a lesson in perseverance Thursday by British speaker Jamie McDonald.
The 27-year-old Gloucester native finished his 5,000-mile run across Canada – the first person to do so without a supporting crew. And as he stood at the front of the gymnasium filled with eight-to 12-year-olds, McDonald was captivating as he shared his inspirational story.
"All I can do is show them what I’ve done, and tell them what I like to do and what they should be doing," McDonald said.
"I hope I’m just planting seeds and it’s just going to go off and they’ll go out and do some good in the world some day."
On March 9, 2013, he began his "Run for the Future" campaign in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Battling snowstorms, -40 C weather and mountain ranges, not to mention chronic tendonitis in his foot, McDonald pushed through.
Perseverance is something McDonald is no stranger to. As a child, he was diagnosed with a rare spinal condition known as syringomyelia, causing an immune deficiency, epilepsy and mobility problems.
It resulted in him being in and out of hospital for nine years until his symptoms suddenly disappeared.
Since then, McDonald has been in motion, leading an active, adventurous lifestyle.
"I think the end is I want to really promote movement, I feel like that cured me," he said.
"Because when we become sick, the first thing we want to do is sit down and tell the world how sick we are and not move. And that’s completely opposite what we should be doing."
Since 2012, McDonald has been raising money for British charities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and the Pied Piper Appeal.
He cycled 14,000 miles from Bangkok, Thailand back to his home in England. Two days after he returned, he broke the world static cycling record, raising the time to 265 hours. During the challenges he raised tens of thousands of pounds.
"It motivates me to try and give back to the hospitals that helped me as a kid because if it wasn’t for them, I might not be here," he said.
Arriving in Vancouver dressed as comic superhero The Flash on Monday, Feb. 3, McDonald has run the equivalent of 200-plus marathons in 275 days. To date, he has raised $130,000 for different hospitals or foundations in each of the provinces he passed through. His initial goal was $40,000.
South Meridian principal Darien Russell said he believed McDonald’s message would resonate with his students.
"I was hoping that the children would be inspired by his story of active selflessness, that one person can make a difference and contribute in a great way to the world," Russell said.
The students made their own donation to McDonald’s cause, presenting him with a cheque for $152 they raised with a coin drive. Parents also donated, adding $100.