Women in Action walk, raise $70,000 for cancer research

“It’s such a mix of emotion – it’s hard to describe”


The Women in Action, Steps of Hope walkers take their final steps towards Rankin Inlet May 3. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

The Women in Action, Steps of Hope walkers take their final steps towards Rankin Inlet May 3. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

There were leg cramps and there were tears.

The five core members of this year’s Women in Action, Steps of Hope walk woke up May 2, one-third of the way from Whale Cove to Rankin Inlet, to high winds, snow and no sign of the sun.

With only each other to buoy their spirits, the group huddled to say a morning prayer before setting off.

This year’s group – made up of Nunavut commissioner Edna Elias, Kim Crockatt of Cambridge Bay, Wynter Kuliktana of Kugluktuk, Jesse Mike of Iqaluit and Susan Ball of Arviat – set off from Whale Cove May 1 on foot, accompanied by guides Simon Kowmuk and Timothy Akerolik and camp cook Bernadette Dean.

Twenty-six year old Kuliktana was the youngest walker, Kuliktana, while the oldest, Sue Ball, celebrated her 69th birthday May 2.

“The last five to 10 miles each day were very grueling,” Elias said. “By then, you’re feeling your leg muscles and you’re wondering if you’re going to make it.”

But they did.

And it was well worth the effort, said Elias, who still took part in the walk despite the recent diagnosis of a lung disease.

As Rankin Inlet came into sight May 3, the group took the final steps of the 100-kilometre journey in unison.

“It’s really exhilarating,” Elias said of the greeting the women received in Rankin Inlet; horns honking, cameras clicking and plenty of hugs and kisses.

“It’s such a mix of emotion – it’s hard to describe.”

Royal Canadian Army cadets lined up along a red carpet to greet the walkers, while a long satin ribbon was decorated with tiny pink ribbons to symbolize the walk’s purpose — the fight against breast cancer.

As was the first-ever Women in Action, Steps of Hope walk in Nunavut in 2012, the event’s goal has been to raise money for cancer research (via the Alberta Cancer Foundation) and to promote healthy living.

A little over a week before walkers departed, Nunavummiut donors had given $30,000 to the cause.

By the time the walkers reached Rankin Inlet, Elias estimates those donations had grown to about $70,000 — $10,000 away from the group’s $80,000 target.

“People are really giving whatever they can,” she said. “Even between Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet, we collected $800 people gave out of pocket.”

In Rankin Inlet, musher and cancer survivor David Oolooyuk had just won a local dog sled team race, and donated half of his winnings – $1,000 – to the Women in Action.

That generosity is despite last-minute changes to the walk. A number of walkers pulled out of the event in recent weeks due to health and personal problems, Elias included.

And while the group originally planned to walk from Rankin to Whale Cove and back, it become a one-way walk after concerns that the snow was melting too fast, making it difficult to travel with snowmobiles and qamutiks.

After receiving her health diagnosis, Elias only planned to walk the first kilometre and then meet her fellow walkers at the finish line.

Instead, she walked about 15 kilometres the first day, and travelled by snowmobile until the final stretch of the walk.

“My lungs were able to take the abuse,” Elias laughed. “I felt fine.”

As a founder of the Steps of Hope, Elias hoped to make it a biennial event.

“But it looks like we’re already planning one for the Baffin region next year,” she said.

You can donate to Women in Action, Steps of Hope here.

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