He may not always follow the official course route, but Rick Robertson has put on a lot of miles with the Scotiabank MS Walk.
“I don’t walk the route, but in the past I have patrolled the route. I help set it up,” said Robertson, chair of this year’s walk that will set out from Marigold elementary school on May 15.
Event day starts at 6 a.m. for Robertson as he works to make sure everything is ready for the 10 a.m. start.
“With any kind of luck we’ll have everything ready to go,” said Robertson, who describes the day as steady but not hectic.
More than 100 volunteers will dedicate their efforts to this year’s walk, starting the Friday before the event by loading up the truck to haul the materials. On event day, volunteers will be busy filling roles such as route marshals, preparing food, counting cash and handling registrations.
“They’re just a great team, a great bunch of people. There’s a fair number of logistical issues to conquer, but we’ve been doing it as a team for so long it almost seems too easy now,” said Robertson, who has been involved with the MS Walk for the past 12 years.
Robertson’s wife, Karen, does him one better – she’s volunteered with the walk for 13 years and is the one who got him involved.
“It’s a family affair, because I chair the walk and am the route co-ordinator and my wife looks after the food tent and supervises that end of the show,” said Robertson, who has chaired the walk committee for the last five years and completed a six-year term as a member of the board.
Last year’s walk raised more than $149,000 through participants and sponsors, and over the past 10 years the event has brought in more than $1.6 million. That money is used to support MS research and services, with much of the proceeds remaining in the Victoria community to go towards programs such as the MS Art Therapy Group, Newly Diagnosed Support Group, educational seminars and the equipment loan program.
Canada has the highest rates of MS in the world, with 12,000 people diagnosed in B.C. Women are three times as likely to develop MS as men. Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system, interfering with the brains’s signals to the rest of the body. The disease can cause a variety of symptoms, from numbness to vision problems, impaired speech, loss of balance or even paralysis.
Registration for this year’s walk will begin at 8:30 a.m., with participants selecting the three, six or nine-kilometre routes.
“At 10 o’clock the bell goes off and we put 300 people out onto the streets of Victoria,” said Robertson.
Last year the venue for the walk was changed to Marigold school and the Galloping Goose Trail, after years of starting out from Willows Beach in Oak Bay.
“It was a little crowded at the start,” said Robertson of the first year the walk was held in Saanich. “ Last year they started at once, this year we’re going to stagger them. Three hundred people in a herd fill up the Goose in a hurry.”
The event is open to all ages and abilities, with efforts made to accommodate those using wheelchairs, scooters or strollers. Even your four-legged friends are welcomed to join in on the fun.
There will be food and an entertainment stage at the Marigold site, with face-painting and balloons for the kids as well as a doggy care centre.
“It’s a great day to come out and get some exercise and help support a very, very worthy cause,” said Robertson.