Giants Head Grind is a great day and a great success because of each and everyone of you that come out and join us each year as a participant, volunteer or donor. Everyone that participates does so for their own reasons and has their own distinct story. It is a day dedicated to an important cause and it is raising funds to support that cause, Colorectal Cancer and to preserve an important landmark in our community our Giants Head Mountain.
However for me the Grind will always be about Chris. For me it is the hope that something good can be built out of something so tragic. I carry him with me every single day and I will for the rest of my life but he is especially close to me in May as we prepare for the race and the anniversary of his death. He will be forever in my heart, he will be forever in my prayers, he will remain forever young. Remembering you today and always Chris.
The following article was originally published in the Summerland Review, by Ellen Walker-Matthews.
Colorectal Cancer; it’s not a subject that comes up very frequently at dinner parties unless of course you are a visitor in our home. In 2013, after an 11-month battle, our 29-year-old son Chris lost his life to colon cancer. He was by many accounts an unlikely candidate, otherwise healthy and fit, an avid runner and cyclist, triathlete, two-time Ironman finisher, and the list goes on. Yet despite all of this, one a rainy day in 2012 at Vancouver General Hospital we were hearing a doctor saying “stage 4 metastatic colon cancer” and wondering how this could have happened.
We have come to learn this news is being delivered to far too many families every year in Canada and throughout North America as colorectal cancers are the 2nd and 3rd leading cause of death from cancer in men and women respectively. More over while the incidents of this form of cancer are showing signs of declining in individuals over 50 years of age they are increasing in those that are younger; a fact that is both alarming and concerning.
Through the efforts of Summerland Rotary, the District of Summerland, a committed group of volunteers and spurred on by those of us that knew and loved Chris, the Giants Head Grind was started in May of 2014 to elevate awareness of this deadly disease. Now in its fourth year the event continues to attract over 400 individuals of all ages who walk, run and cycle their way from Peach Orchard Park on Lake Okanagan to the top of Giants Head Mountain. Together with dedicated volunteers and sponsors, who help to make the race a reality, we are literally “kicking butt” raising awareness and raising funds.
We have also forged a relationship with the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada and are pleased to be welcoming their Founder and CEO Barry Stein, himself a survivor, to this year’s event. Diagnosed in his early 30’s he ultimately sought treatment in the United States which saved his life, but he vowed to bring about change in Canada. His focus is threefold: Awareness, Advocacy and Education around a disease that is preventable, treatable and beatable. Their most recent initiative “Never Too Young” puts a focus on the issue increased incidents in young people highlighting the need for better access to screening and treatments.
Healthy and active lifestyles are a cornerstone to cancer prevention which is why a portion of the funds raised at the Giants Head Grind are also being used to improve the trails on Giants Head Mountain. Leading the way on this initiative is The District of Summerland who together with Summerland Rotary are developing a mountain master plan followed by a phased implementation of the recommendations. In addition, recent funding from Rotary International and the Provincial Liberals are helping to further augment this work.
Collectively our goals will help to ensure the long term health of our mountain while providing a spectacular location for outdoor recreation that residents and visitors can enjoy for years to come.
A lot has been accomplished in a few short years but there is so much more to be done. The Giants Head Grind is an event that has been embraced and supported by the community something we are most grateful for. Whether you participate, volunteer, sponsor or cheer on those that are making the climb, your support of this cause that touches so many lives, is tremendously appreciated.
Miracles Do Happen When We Conquer the Giant… Together at the Annual Giants Head Grind – Christopher Walker Memorial Race.