Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and next May, Cheryl Young will be putting this theory to the test.
Taking one step at a time, Young will walk 1,050 km from Langley to Banff, Alta. to raise awareness for fibromyalgia and other invisible illnesses.
Young, who is afflicted by fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and asthma, says not enough is being done to educate the public on these illnesses.
“We look at fibromyalgia as being where MS (multiple sclerosis) was 20 years ago,” she said.
“It was still a mystery, and that’s where we are today. Some people believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are things that doctors put a name on just to give you a diagnosis, but we know that it’s different.”
That’s why Young created the Just One More Step walk. She says there is a misconception that if people look good on the outside, they are well on the inside. But with invisible illnesses, that’s not the case.
“The walk is going to bring that upfront and centre,” Young said.
“Why you shouldn’t be rude to people [and] why you should be more compassionate for people.”
Young, who is the founder and executive director of the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation, originally planned on walking to Banff by herself with her husband, Nigel, driving behind.
But since she starting talking about it, more and more people want to join.
Now she has 20 people from her organization committed to walking the whole distance, 50 people who will walk part of the way and a documentary crew following along.
Young is also hoping the mayors and councillors in each town join them for “just one more step” as they pass through.
The walk isn’t about getting to Banff as fast as possible, but about the participants taking on the challenge and bettering themselves along the way, Young said.
People with illnesses like fibromyalgia spend a lot of time laying in bed, and Young wants to give them a reason to step out.
“It’s about what they can do,” she said.
“It’s about that one step — that block of something that they couldn’t do before — and make them feel proud that they got up out of bed and they came out.
“I want to give them hope. That’s what it’s all about is giving them hope.”
Last month, she and Nigel drove to Banff to map the route.
They spoke with mayors, businesses, visitor centres and the RCMP to help plan the roads to walk and accommodations.
Some sections of the highway are too dangerous to walk, and there are RVs and bathroom trailers that will be trailing the group. Part of the mapping was noting where driving will be required and where they can park a group of large vehicles.
With a goal of walking 25 to 30 km per day, Young is planning to take 36 days to get to Banff.
“It was a lot of work, but it is exciting and actually mind-blowing because people had their arms open,” Young said.
“They were so receptive for us to come that it was just unbelievable the joy.”
The walk is also fulfilling for Young on a deeper, personal level.
She chose to do a walking event over a different type of fundraiser “because I can walk, it’s something I can do,” she said.
Two years ago Young had neck problems that left her unable to move. With help from a special chiropractor she was slowly able to regain her mobility. So having the ability to walk to Banff is very meaningful for her.
“I can walk,” she said.
“I can’t run, I can’t do anything else, but I can walk.”
The Just One More Step walk starts on May 24, 2016. Young is still looking for sponsors and more participants are welcome.
Those interested can call her at 778-278-3697 or visit their website www.fibromyalgiawellspringfoundation.org.
The Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation is holding its fifth annual Western Hoedown fundraiser at Tamara’s Farm in Aldergrove on Aug. 15.
There will be a 50/50, toonie toss, silent auction, petting zoo, horseback riding and live music by Rick Chadwick and Nigel Tucker.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages six to 15 and and free for children under six years.
They also include a hamburger, hotdog, chicken burger or chilli.
Tickets are available at the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation, #109-20631 Fraser Hwy. or by calling 778-278-3697.