Spencer West speaks to the students at Ecole Corinthia Park School in Leduc at the first stop on his marathon from Edmonton to Calgary to raise money to bring fresh water to third world countries.
Students at Ecole Corinthia Park School in Leduc were all fired up to meet Spencer and hear him speak about his marathon. The entire school was chanting "Spencer West is the best!" while eagerly awaiting Spencer's arrival.
From May 5th -16th a very special marathon is being run between Edmonton and Calgary. The very first stop along the route was in Leduc on May 6th at Ecole Corinthia Park School where the kids themselves had arranged the entire event. But we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here so let's return to the beginning where all good stories start.
In 2012 Pam Lang, a teacher at ECPS and leader of a student group called the Empower Rangers, went on a trip to Africa and ended up spending time with a group of local women and experiencing how they live their lives. One of the things that made the biggest impacts on Pam was the way the women had to provide their families with water. Unlike here, where you just turn on a tap to access all the clean, safe drinking water anyone could need, in Africa these ladies had to make a 5 km trek to the nearest water hole which is muddy, contaminated with animal urine and feces, and crawling with bacteria and disease. These ladies would make this trip up to five times a day to provide their families with the water that they needed.
As an African proverb states "A friend is one you walk the path with.” Pam walked and chatted with the ladies for several trips back and forth to the water hole and discovered another fact of life about the vast majority of women in Africa; they cannot go to school. "This is what women do." said Pam. "From the time they are little girls they work and haul water for their families. They don't go to school. At that moment I decided that I had to find a way to help."
So recently, when Pam heard about the upcoming marathon called "We Walk 4 Water" which would be raising money to provide villages in Africa (and eventually other 3rd world countries) with clean water, she told her student group, the Empower Rangers, about it and, "The kids pretty much took over from there!" said Pam.
Spencer West, the athlete behind the marathon, was inspired to try and raise funds to bring clean water to the world for exactly the same reason as Pam. He had been in Africa to climb Kilamunjaro in 2012 to raise funds for Free The Children's clean water initiatives, and feels the issue is such an important one he has continued to try to find ways of bringing awareness to people.
This is where Spencer's motto "Possible; Redefined" enters into the equation. The thing that makes Spencer's efforts so unique is not only that he has the desire and determination to help others but that he has overcome his own personal challenges to help others.
You see, Spencer was born without the use of his legs. Due to a genetic disorder called sacral agenesis, when Spencer was a baby doctors told his parents that at some point in time Spencer would be losing his legs and probably wouldn't be a functioning or contributing member of society. "I wouldn't accept that,” said Spencer.
At 5 years old Spencer did have his legs amputated below the pelvis but never let that slow him down for a minute. Amongst many other things, he has written a book, become an in-demand inspirational speaker, climbed Kilamunjaro, and in high school became a cheerleader on a squad that won first place in their division!
Needless to say, the kids at ECPS were thrilled to have Spencer coming to their school. From the moment they started filing into the gym all the kids were loudly chanting "Spencer West, he's the best!" Once seated, a couple of young ladies from the Empower Rangers had everyone stomping and singing the words "We will walk for water!" to the tune of "We Will Rock You" by Queen. Handmade signs with the marathon's name on it were being waved throughout the gym, and at least one child from every class entered carrying plastic jugs of water.
To get the kids going prior to Spencer coming in (not like they needed it!) everyone was treated to very special musical guest Tyler Shaw, who was on hand to perform his hit "Kiss Goodnight" for the crowd. Then, Spencer's two best friends, David Johnson and Alex Meers, came onstage to talk a little bit about the marathon as well as telling everyone about their climb up Kilamunjaro, which they had done alongside of Spencer. In describing the adventure there were quite a few references to altitude sickness and vomiting, along with a short film showing them climbing the mountain which included shots of the aforementioned sickness and vomiting, that the kids ew'ed, aw'ed, laughed at and thoroughly loved!
After the film the much anticipated Spencer West was welcomed to the stage with a huge round of applause and much foot stamping and yelling. Sitting on a stool in the center of the stage, Spencer proceeded to share the reasons behind the marathon with the kids.
"I saw poverty for the first time." said Spencer. He told the kids that as a young adult just out of college, he really had everything going for him when a friend invited him to go to Kenya Africa to build a school for the charity Free The Children. "I decided to go and experienced a moment there that changed my life forever." shared Spencer. "We (the group building the school) were invited to a community gathering to welcome us, and as part of this celebration we had to walk up a hill just outside the village. I was in my wheelchair and was having a hard time, struggling to get up the steep and rocky hillside. All of a sudden I felt a tiny hand slip into mine for a second, and then someone was pushing on my chair. I looked behind me and discovered a little five year old boy had his hands on the back of my chair trying to push me up the hill. In a couple of minutes there were several small children behind me pushing and shoving, trying to get me up the hill. That's the moment I realized that you don't have to cross an ocean, as long as you have support anyone can make a difference."
Three years later Spencer was back in Africa climbing Kilamunjaro to raise money and provide fresh water for villages just like that one. Now he is raising money here in Alberta for the same cause by running an 11 day, 300 km marathon on his hands.
Obviously extremely inspired by Spencer, the kids at ECPS had really gotten behind the cause and presented Spencer with a cheque for over $600.00 that they had raised. Spencer thanked them by presenting them with a huge sticker to put up in their school that commemorated the 2013 We Walk 4 Water marathon.
Even though this marathon will be over by the time you read this story, Spencer will be continuing to collect donations for Free The Children's clean water initiatives. So to keep track of Spencer, see how the walk went, contribute to this initiative, or to get involved yourself, you can go to http://www.freethechildren.com/get-involved/campaigns/we-walk-4water/.