Students and teachers on a walkathon May 4, 1969. From left are Ron Ruryk, (unknown), Sharon Konkin, Bill Konkin, and Leona Whitehead. (Submitted)

A walkathon down the memory lane in Burns Lake

A 1969 fundraiser that saw almost 170 participants

Walkathons were a common form of fund-raising for much of the 20th Century. Participants would solicit pledges from local residents, who would offer to pay the walker a set fee per mile.

On Sunday, May 4, 1969, 170 local residents gathered along Highway 16 for one such fund-raiser. The 40-mile event, which started west of Burns Lake at what was then the Uplands Motel, and included a long steep incline known as Six Mile Hill, was held to generate money for Lakes District Secondary School. Students in the school’s drama club and choir hoped to attend Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan the following year, but needed some financial assistance to make their dream a reality.

Support staff were on hand to lend assistance. John Fehr converted his truck into a mobile hot dog stand to ensure than walkers had access to food and drink. Volunteers manned checkpoints along the route. Betty Drewcock, one of them, went home barefoot; she’d given her shoes away to a participant whose footwear couldn’t take the punishment.

Some residents went to great lengths to participate. Bob Van Horlick of Priestly walked, ran, and hitchhiked his way to the starting point. He arrived two hours late, having already walked and ran an estimated 10 miles. Despite the late start, he managed to overtake many of the participants and complete the event in good time.

The first person to cross the finish line was Marg Miller, who arrived in Burns Lake at approximately 5 p.m. in the company of Larry Disher and Kerry (or perhaps Ken) Guenter. Disher and Guenter were complete gentlemen, waiting while Miller changed shoes at Decker Lake, and then allowing her to sprint across the finish line ahead of them.

Forty-eight others finished the walk, with the last of them staggering into town at approximately 10:30 p.m. Jerry Whitecomb was one of those who managed the feat; he did the entire trek alone.

A total of 130 of the 170 participants walked at least half the required distance on what was described as “a fine spring day.”

© 2019 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society

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