“Women in action” trekkers raise $100,000 for cancer research
"I’d do it again," says CamBay mayor
The sun was shining as Jeannie Ehaloak, the mayor of Cambridge Bay, saw her community in the distance from across the ice on May 19.
For nearly two weeks Ehaloak, Janet Brewster, Elisabeth Hadlari, Jamie McInnis, Donna Olsen-Hakongak, and Nunavut Commissioner Edna Elias, accompanied by Yannick Ferguson, her aide-de-camp, had been walking in the fog, rain and snow.
They set out May 7 from Bay Chimo, 220-kilometres away, to walk to Cambridge Bay. Their common goal for their “Women in action — Steps of hope” walk: to raise money for cancer research and to promote healthy living through their “Women in action- Steps of hope” walk.
The bright spring day made the homecoming perfect, Ehaloak said.
But it was a “very emotional” moment as the women walked together towards the crowd of people waiting to welcome them on the ice by the shore.
“I remembered my loved ones, who I lost to cancer,” Ehaloak said, her voice cracking as she recalled her thoughts. “I couldn’t believe I had done it. I had finished. And it was over.”
The next day, as a special event organized during Cambridge Bay’s Omingmak Frolics, the “Women in action” presented a cheque for $76,400 to the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
The money will go to support the Edmonton Cross Cancer Institute and breast cancer research. That, with a surprise donation fro the Ikalututiak Elks for $2,500 and additional sponsorship money, brings their walkers’ contribution to more than $100,000, Ehaloak said.
The money raised by fundraisers and donations made all the achy muscles during the long walk worthwhile.
The walk started May 7 in Bay Chimo with everyone, including the walkers’ back-up team, holding hands and saying a prayer.
“Our first few steps were very emotional,” Ehaloak said.
Every day the walkers broker camp by mid-morning to head off on their daily trek of about 21 km. They stopped for water and snack breaks every three km..
Before leaving in the morning, they fortified themselves for the day with oatmeal and a healthy mixture of fruit nicknamed “holy crap.”
“Our best moment was in the morning when it was kind of cool out and the snow was hard and it made for easy walking,” Ehaloak said.
The women walked separately, and as they walked, they thought about people they had lost to cancer, she said.
“Everyday I would say to myself ‘who are you walking for today?’ It would be a family member or a friend.”
At night, the walkers set up camp and started a nightly routine which involved melting snow and ice for the next day’s water. The tents took turns making meals, which included caribou stew.
Ehaloak made a meat mixture with onions and gravy, noting “everything tastes good, everything tastes a lot better when you’re out on the land.”
Now, back in Cambridge Bay, Ehaloak is getting adjusted to sleeping in her own warm bed.
She still has her shaved head — shaved May 4 as part of a community fundraising event — to remind her the cancer patients who lose their hair due to chemotherapy and of the commitment that she and the other walkers made to fight cancer.
“I’d do it again,” said Ehaloak, who plans to keep up the walks and yoga she did to whip herself into shape for the walk. “I do want to stay fit and healthy.”