“It’s a family journey when somebody is affected by cancer; it’s not just the individual,” reflects Jimmy Lefebvre who lost his father to the dreaded disease in 2016.
Lefebvre and most of his family are currently on a public and personal journey that is taking them, on foot, from his parents’ home in Grande Prairie, Alberta to his father Simon’s gravesite in Palmer Road, P.E.I. They hope to arrive there on August 31, his father’s 72nd birthday.
Although Simon was from Northern Ontario and lived in Grande Prairie, he chose to be buried in P.E.I. where his parents-in-law are interred.
It was Simon Lefebvre who introduced sled dog raising to P.E.I. nearly 30 years ago.
On May 1, the Lefebvres, Jimmy and Kristie, their children Dylan, nine, and Kallyn and Kayden, both eight, and Jimmy’s mother, Rita, set out on their 5,716 km Can-Survive walk with the completion date already firmly entrenched.
“I think we are a day, maybe two days ahead of schedule,” assessed Lefebvre during a telephone interview while on a rest break outside of Oromocto, NB. He said they will slow the pace and use some time to connect with P.E.I. relatives once they hit P.E.I. on Aug. 26.
Even while he’s on break Can-Survive still moves forward, as his wife or his mother then walks for him. It’s sort of a family relay, he acknowledges
“Dad was kind of from that old-school mentality: fairly reserved, fairly security-driven,” said Jimmy. As for what he thought his father’s response would have been to his plans to walk cross-country in his memory and to raise money to be used to fund cancer research and to support cancer patients and their families, he said, “He probably would’ve told me that I’m absolutely crazy (but) he obviously would be quite proud.”
He started thinking about a fundraiser a few months after his father’s passing and committed to it last September.
Throughout the eight-hour days on the road, each of Jimmy’s children take turns walking with him. They’ve had some extra time off of school because of the walk, but Lefebvre said they are learning along the way. “They’ve actually really, really grown and developed as young human beings which is quite phenomenal to see from a parent’s perspective, seeing them develop and come out of their shell, and to be able to see the country in this light as opposed to just reading about it in a textbook is a completely different way of life for them.”
A 19 year-old son, Declyn, will fly in to do the P.E.I. leg with him.
Lefebvre had originally set a goal of raising $100 million for a Lefebvre Foundation which he established to raise money to assist people in their fight with cancer. He has modified the Can-Survive Walk goal to $123,000, essentially $1,000 for each day the family is on the road. As of Monday the walk had raised $31,500. He’s optimistic the pace of donations will pick up as the seven million-step walk comes closer to completion. There’s also a wrap-up party set for September 1 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Palmer Road.