Running down a dream one step at a time
From his house in Eagle Lake, Colin Harris, a bearded young man, with a long and lean physique spoke about how his dream to run coast-to-coast has evolved into an initiative to inspire, educate, raise awareness and encourage the next generation toward finding balance for a healthier life. With his friend Sarah Powell of Nova Scotia, they formed the non-profit organization Take Me Outside to be part of a wave for change, which will start with the cross-Canada endeavour.
“We need to encourage the youth whether it is youth starting outdoor clubs, a nature club or a gardening project. We want to encourage teachers in taking their classes outside more,” he said. “We’re hoping to encourage parents to get outside with their kids more so we’re looking to partner with a couple of other organizations who will help us implement \[this idea].”
The environmental education masters student, who quit his fulltime job less than a week ago to write his thesis and to embark on this effort, will be running a marathon a day for five days a week, visiting schools and communities along the planned Trans-Canada Highway route speaking and leading interactive activities.
We need to encourage the youth whether it is youth starting outdoor clubs, a nature club or a gardening project. We want to encourage teachers in taking their classes outside more
Harris said the weekends would be used for rest, communication work and for community event partnering.
Right now they are considering adding to the comprehensive seven-page proposal for this project with something they can leave behind for the schools and places they visit to ensure what they do is lasting and not forgotten.
There are 35 schools (kindergarten to Grade 8 and high schools) that have been confirmed for the eight-month trip that has the team covering 12,000 kilometres.
“Even if we don’t come through their community or city \[we hope] that they’ll still come on board,” he said, adding the success of this project depends upon the support of adults and teachers to work with children.
Facebook, Twitter and all these things aren’t necessarily bad things. We’re just too consumed by it and so we’re trying to encourage people through these means to get outside more
The team plans to confirm more schools and has a goal to have direct contact with at least 25,000 students, but expects to have communication with many more through the Internet via the project’s website, Facebook page, Twitter, blogs and vlogs (which are video blogs), including a planned weekly podcast.
“Facebook, Twitter and all these things aren’t necessarily bad things. We’re just too consumed by it and so we’re trying to encourage people through these means to get outside more,” he said. “That’s our focus. It’s not to be anti-technology, but to encourage students to have more balance than they are presently receiving,” he said.
He said responsibility obviously rests with the youth, but it also should extend to parents, teachers and politicians.
“Should a student be learning six or seven hours a day, enclosed by four walls? That’s not all teachers, but generally speaking kids are in a classroom for the majority of the day,” he said.
Harris loves to run and has completed more than 30 ultra, full and half marathons. He just finished working at YMCA Wanakita in Haliburton where he was employed for the past nine years, including five years as a director of outdoor education.
The experience provided him with first hand knowledge of the benefits children receive from their stay at Wanakita, which was an experience they probably would not forget in their lifetime. He added this also exposed him to the sad reality that for some, this kind of experience would be their only outdoor experience.
He and his partner will start in St. John’s, Nfld. in January, which was a strategic decision, he said, to not only avoid running and driving in the mountains when it is wrought with hazards, but to be an example that physical activities can still be engaged in during the winter.
He said efforts to encourage outdoor activity among youth is being performed locally by Sue Shikaze of the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit, including national organizations, which he hopes to partner with, such as KidActive and the Child Nature Alliance.
We are focused on the health of youth, but that can translate into the physical health of adults as well – even the mental health when it comes to spending all that time inside
“It’s organizations like that and people like Sue who are on the front lines really trying to get these kids outside and we’re hoping this project that goes across Canada can just add to that momentum that they already created,” he said.
There is a plan for a documentary that will focus on the youth that are active, who understand the importance of and are involved with leading outdoor clubs. Funding is needed and he hopes a sponsor can see the value of this type of record.
Harris is alarmed by the results of studies that indicate people are spending more than 90 per cent of their day inside.
“We are focused on the health of youth, \but that can translate into the \physical health of adults as well – even the mental health when it comes to spending all that time inside,” he said.
He said Powell will be driving the support vehicle behind him while he runs and will handle the various communication and media content production.
Powell is a junior high teacher for English in Dartmouth, N.S. Harris met her several years ago when they both worked at Wanakita.
With only a few months until the start date, he and his project partner are working hard on acquiring funding through grants and sponsors for this endeavour, but could use any help in the way of gasoline and food sponsorships, including donations of a video camera and a recreational vehicle.
For more information check their website takemeoutside.ca or contact them at email@example.com