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I’d walk a hundred miles

WEB Keegan and mum on bridge 1

I’d walk a hundred miles

By Liz Campbell

Keegan Kelly shows me the bottom of his shoe. It might seem an odd greeting, but it’s important to the shy 11-year-old that I see the worn down treads.

Two weeks ago these shoes were new, but Keegan has walked 100 miles in them.

The journey began when Keegan asked his mom, Jennifer Dickison, “You know how people walk for good causes? What does the walking do?” They talked about raising awareness and funds and Keegan said, “Walking would actually help the problem I’m trying to solve.”

The problem he was trying to solve was getting people to leave their cars at home and walk. He’s not sure exactly where he learned about global warming and air pollution – it might have been school, or television or discussions with his parents. But the thoughtful youngster was troubled and wanted to do something.

Keegan decided to walk 100 miles.

“I chose 100 miles because it’s a large amount and Americans would understand miles better than kilometres,” explained Keegan. “People have to use cars less. It’s important because cars make pollution with their exhaust and it destroys the air.”

Dickison took it seriously and supported his plan. The pair set out to buy the important walking shoes and double layered socks they hoped would protect their feet from blisters. (They helped but there were a few blisters). Despite the demands of three children, Dickison began walking to work whenever she could in order to train herself.

Keegan has to take a school bus but walks to the bus stop. It’s just too far to walk to school. “The bus is going that way anyway, so it’s using the same amount of gas even if I didn’t get on,” he says, then adds on reflection, “It might need a tiny amount more but I don’t think it needs a lot more energy for my weight.”

On July 1, Canada Day, mother and son set out to walk the 100 miles between their home in Fredericton, NB and Keegan’s grandparents’ home in Sussex, NB. They planned to walk for five days. Keegan’s father flew out from Alberta to join them for the last two days of the walk.

I asked what they talked about as they walked. “Random stuff,” says Keegan, then adds flippantly, “From bacon to boats.”

They carried necessities in their backpacks; Keegan’s weighed about 8 kg. “We took bug spray and dog spray,” he laughs. “My mom was afraid dogs or wild animals would bother us.”  There weren’t any problems, but patently, Dickison was covering every contingency.

Initially, Keegan was reluctant to advertise their plans. Not naturally comfortable in the spotlight, he finally agreed to a Facebook page and Canada Helps website to raise funds for his cause – the David Suzuki Foundation. As an interesting aside, Keegan’s grandmother had taken part in Miles for Millions walks when she was younger. During the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Canadians participated in the annual walkathon to raise money to alleviate the poverty and hunger crises in poor parts of the world.

As Keegan and his mum strode the miles to Sussex, friends and people who had heard about it came out to donate $340 in cash. And Canada Helps donations have just topped the $2000 mark.

Would he do it again? Yes, he says, but just once more – no explanation for the codicil.

By the way, Keegan agreed to talk to me only if I walked to our aptly chosen meeting spot – the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge in Fredericton. It was only a mile for me but I’d have walked a few more to meet Keegan.

Keegan’s Facebook page: