The Beacon – Gander, NL

the_beacon_logoStudents at Gander Academy had plenty to ask Colin Harris when he paid them a visit Monday morning, and for good reason. It isn’t often you get to meet somebody who’s running across Canada.
Mr. Harris, who’s from Haliburton, Ont., left historic Signal Hill in St. John’s on Jan. 10 to start his run across the country.

He’s stopping in various schools along his run to Port aux Basques to express the importance of living an active lifestyle, and to hear what students had to say about the topic. He wasn’t interested in talking for the entire time – he really wanted to hear the students’ stories so he can share them with other students in schools between Newfoundland and British Columbia.

“The students are not going to sit and listen to some guy they don’t know, who’s coming in to tell them that being outside and being active is important,” said Mr. Harris. “ I think they have to decide for themselves whether being outside and being active is important or not, and if I can help facilitate that discussion, or at least get them thinking about it, it’s going to empower them more if they have to make that decision on their own.”

One statistic Mr. Harris threw at the kids was, on average, most Canadians spend at least six hours a day in front of a screen (television, computer, etc…), which drew gasps from the Grade 4 and 5 kids he spoke with.

He then asked them about the kind of activities they like to do while spending a day outdoors in the snow, when they’re away from television screens and computer games. The answers varied from snowball fights to snowboarding, and he’s hoping the students, as well as the teachers, visit his website, www. takemeoutside. ca, to post their stories so other Canadians will draw inspiration from it.

“Our website is coming along, and we have a section called Canadians Outside, and the goal of that is to share stories of people who are really dedicated to getting these kids outside. If Gander Academy is snowshoeing, we’d love to post that story, because it can be great inspiration to other Canadians who come to the site,” he said. “A lot of classes across the country, even along the context of Physical Education, are staying inside a lot of the time. I think it’s great Gander Academy is doing snowshoeing, because not only does it get the kids active, but it also gets them outside.”

After hearing about the many side effects of not being active, the youth seemed determined to stay active, and physically fit.

After finishing at Gander Academy, Mr. Harris and one of his drivers, Sarah Powell, left to drive to Glovertown. However, his message was still fresh in the minds of the students he spoke with while in Gander. After hearing about the many side effects of not being active, the youth seemed determined to stay active, and physically fit.

Dylan Morawski, 10, swims 10 hours a week with the Gander Lakers Swim Club, so he knows the benefits of getting exercise. He believes it’s something all youth in his age group should be doing.

“ It’s important to be active because it helps keep you healthy. If you’re obese, or if you have something like diabetes, you won’t be able to do too much,” he said. “It limits what you can do.”

Kaleigh Hicks, also 10, said she spends a lot of time outside, playing in the snow with her friends. Whether they’re sliding or building snow forts, they’re never bored, and they never run out of things to do.


B.C. Bound – Colin Harris, far left, answers questions from Gander Academy students who were buzzing after hearing he was running across Canada. – Matt Molly/The Beacon

Although it’s fun, she also understands that playing outside helps keep her healthy.

“Not being active won’t do you any good in the future,” she said. “ You can grow up with disabilities and maybe get diabetes, which can take your vision away.”

Though Mr. Harris wasn’t around to hear the youth comment on what they learned from him, he would have been proud to hear their answers.

Afterall, he’s encouraging the youth to get outside and get active, which is exactly what Dylan and Kaleigh are doing.

“We want to raise some national attention towards this issue,” said Mr. Harris. “ With increasing rates of obesity and diabetes, I think sending the message of getting outside and being active is important. For both Sarah and I, we’ve worked in education for the past decade, so it made sense to stop into some schools. We like interacting and talking with students, and getting their perspective.”

Mr. Harris is hoping to conclude his journey by the end of September.

Original images and article courtesy of The Beacon

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