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Campbell River runner fundraises for youth to experience outdoors

A local runner completes marathon so disadvantaged youth can experience the outdoors this summer.

A Campbell River runner took steps last weekend — about 50,000 — to help disadvantaged youth experience the outdoors this summer.

Sophie O’Brien, program manager with the Strathcona Park Lodge & Outdoor Education Centre, ran a solo marathon on June 5, from Myra Falls to Strathcona Park.

The run itself was an accomplishment for O’Brien, who never before completed a timed marathon. “There was a lot of work going into it, so it was nice to have that moment,” she said.

But O’Brien’s true feat was using her race to raise thousands of dollars for young people from remote communities in Vancouver Island West School District to attend the lodge’s Wilderness Youth Leadership Development (WYLD) camps. These eight- to 12-day backcountry trips are offered to 12- to 17-year-olds and feature canoeing, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

“These camps provide youth with the opportunity to develop sills — wilderness skills, but also skills within themselves, like the ability to navigate challenges and learn to work in a team environment,” she said.

As of June 9, O’Brien’s ‘Run WYLD” GoFundMe campaign has raised $6,414 from 66 donors, surpassing O’Brien’s goal of $6,000. “It was neat other people also felt inspired and wanted to support these youth,” she said.

Combined with Strathcona Park Lodge subsidizing the camp’s cost by 15 per cent for the five students, the funds O’Brien raised will allow each to attend for free.

O’Brien said the next step might be establishing a scholarship to support access to the program on a long-term basis. To reach this goal, she is seeking donors to support it.