Taking Steps Toward a Cure

By: Jennifer Friesen

In the summer of 2017, Donna Ebeling and her friends were having coffee after completing the OneWalk to Conquer Cancer fundraising event.

Ebeling had been taking part in charity walking events for cancer since 2008. This was the final year of OneWalk Alberta, which helped raise funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. As she sat with her friends and fellow walkers, Lorie Sachs and Cindy White, each felt like they were “on hold” without having another walk to look forward to.

“We just said to each other, ‘Wait, we can do this ourselves,’” Ebeling says. “We wanted to keep raising money, and we wanted to keep going, so we just decided to keep walking.”

They got to work straight away and, within months, created the Legacy Walk for Cancer.

Over the past four years, the trio, and a growing number of participants, have completed the 27-kilometre trek between Canmore and Banff on the Banff Legacy Trail every September. Participants can choose to do a one-day or a two-day walk and make the journey between the towns twice.

Walkers are asked to raise a minimum of $1,000 before the event and, to date, the Legacy Walk has raised more than $55,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, with proceeds supporting clinical trials.

On the inaugural walk in 2018, the three women were joined by Sachs’ then eight-year-old daughter, Ellie, and five other participants. Together, they spent eight hours on the trail sharing stories about the loved ones they lost or who were facing cancer.

“Every year is extremely emotional,” says Ebeling. “You’re surrounded by people who all have the same cause and the same goal, so you have this connection.”

Ebeling was first inspired to start walking in 2008 for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer after her grandmother told her about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1971.

“Hearing her story and hearing how much things have changed really prompted me to do something,” she says. “It opened up my eyes to how few options there were for her then. I asked her once about what medication she was on and she laughed because removal was the only option she was given. So, to see how far we’ve come in all those years because of our research is astounding. Any advances we can make to battling cancer benefits everybody.”

Legacy Walk grew over the years, and it expanded participation during COVID-19 to include a virtual component. Walkers can log their 27-km walk from anywhere and share their journeys online.

Ebeling and her team are planning the 2022 event, which might be their final one under the Legacy Walk name. Ebeling says she wants to end on a high note, with a goal to raise $75,000 total for the five-year project.

Michelle Pitt, development officer, community relations for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, says the foundation is grateful for the support the Legacy Walk has provided patients facing cancer in Alberta.

“By hosting this important fundraiser year after year,” says Pitt, “Legacy Walk for Cancer has made an incredible impact for Albertans undergoing a cancer diagnosis.”

For Ebeling, the Legacy Walk is “just one small event made by a group of friends. But we were able to come together and contribute funds that wouldn’t otherwise be there. I was always taught that one person can make a difference — especially when one person becomes two, and two people build a collective.”

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