Ex-military tank operator Kate MacEachern is lacing up her walking boots and packing her ruck sack for this year’s The Long Way Home, an 85-day walk from Nipawin, Sask. to Chilliwack, B.C. that raises money and awareness for soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder.
This marks the third and final time MacEachern will be making such a trek and this year she is hoofing it for four different benefactors. Alpha K9 in California, Paws Fur Thought in Halifax, Wounded Warrior Weekend Foundation in Chilliwack and the NASH project out of Lethbridge will all receive a portion of the money raised this year.
“Basically it’s a physical manifestation of what PTSD looks like,” said MacEachern of the walk. “The problem with an invisible injury is that we can’t touch it, we can’t see it, therefor it’s hard to understand it. The walk that I do is a way for people to physically see, to start to understand, and at the end of it to start a conversation, because when people start talking, that’s when solutions are found.”
The first Long Way home was in 2011 where she walked from the CFB Gagetown army base in N.B. to Antigonish, N.S. Following that she walked from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Ottawa, Ontario. With this final event she decided to journey across western Canada where it will end at the Wounded Warriors Weekend event in Chilliwack.
MacEarchern said the idea for the fundraiser first came from watching her brothers and sisters in uniform and her need to help people.
“The need to want to do something, the need to find something that was within my realm to be able to do,” she said. “(I thought) maybe I could do something and we can incorporate two things that I am fairly good at, which is carrying a ruck and my need to want to help. Get a message out there. Get support for our men and women and basically everything came together right when it was supposed to.”
Her need to help is paying off as she raised over $20,000 her first year then more than doubled it for the second walk, raising just under $50,000. Seeing as this is the last time she’ll be doing the fundraiser, they will be trying to go above and beyond with a target goal of $100,000.
“Again, this is our last one so we’re aiming very high this year but I believe we can do it.”
She said her reasons for calling it quits involve the amount of time she has to put in to train for the event. MacEarchern takes 11 months out of the year to make sure she is in the right physical shape for the journey and that, added to the three months of walking, takes a great deal of focus and energy.
See “Walking,” Page 18
After this year she says they will have traveled the entirety of Canada and it’s time to slow down so she can concentrate more on the peer support side of things as well as spend more time with her son.
Anyone interested in following MacEarchern’s walk this year is encouraged to visit their website at thelongwayhome.ca where they can monitor her progress with a live tracker, see breakdowns of their maps and note how many kilometres she makes per day. She is expected to be in Lloydminster later this month.