Gary Mason and Tracey Paluck recently completed a massive feat in the name of fundraising and awareness. The Wetaskiwin locals laced up and walked from the Saskatchewan border to the B.C. border, a total of 376 km, over 11 days to fundraise for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada—a cause very important to both Paluck and Mason.
Mason was officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 25-years-old and has been living with it ever since. Paluck herself has Ulcerative Colitis, a difficult diagnose to manage in addition to her other undiagnosed auto-immune issues, but that didn’t stop her from jumping at the chance to join Mason on the fundraising walk.
“I was like, yah, count me in!” Paluck says about when Mason connected with her and asked if she would join him on the walk. Although she was worried about completing the walk while battling her additional health issues, she wanted to show her kids that if they want to, they can do anything.
“Whatever life and health allow, I’m up for it,” says Paluck. “I wanted to be able to claim I’ve done something slightly bigger than average.”
Mason said that when he came up with the plan for the long walk he was excited to prove that his disease doesn’t hold him back. “It’s not a death sentence. You can still have Crohn’s or Colitis and do extraordinary things,” says Mason.
When Mason first reached out to Crohn’s and Colitis Canada they were thrilled to hear of his plan and asked if they would walk in conjunction with the Gutsy Walk, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s annual fundraising walk. This year due to the pandemic, the Gutsy Walk would be a virtual event.
On Aug. 26, 2020, Mason and Paluck started their walk just east of Medicine Hat at the Saskatchewan border, with plans to continue along the side of Highway 3 to their destination.
Mason says that the behind the scenes support was monumental to their success, both physically and mentally. With initial plans to camp along the route at night, Mason and Paluck received benefactor assistance who paid for them to stay in hotels and have support drivers with pick up and drop off.
Mason says that during their walk they had many people who stopped to offer help to them, and then would donate when they realized they were walking intentionally. One family even stopped to offer the walkers candy to lift their spirits.
Despite the support, it wasn’t always easy going. Mason says that for him the mental challenge was the biggest hurdle. Their first day of walking they had to re-evaluate their pace and pick it up the rest of the walk to ensure they met their timeline.
Mason said the repetitiveness was part of this challenge, as the duo would walk an average of 32 km a day, and according to him the landscape of the Alberta prairies don’t change that much.
Paluck herself was facing a difficult challenge during the walk. In addition to her arthritis, she was struggling with circulation in her hands and feet because of her autoimmune issues, causing quite a bit of her walk to be very painful.
On day nine Paluck walked almost 15 km with only one shoe on because her one foot was so swollen her shoe would no longer fit.
When the duo reached the B.C. border on Sept.7, 2020, they kept moving forward until they officially reached the “Welcome to British Columbia” sign.
“We gave everything, every day,” says Mason.
In total Mason and Paluck managed to raise $10, 000 for Gutsy Walk, 100 per cent of said proceeds going to research for Crohn’s and Colitis.
“I have a new found respect for others that walk,” says Paluck. “I was elated that we had taken on such a huge endeavour and we both made it.”