An inspiring 11 year-old Tofino local walked from her hometown to Ucluelet in an effort to raise money for children who can’t access clean water.
Toby Theriault took about 10 hours to complete her Walk to Change, which she kicked off at 7 a.m. on Nov. 20.
“I walked from Tofino to Ucluelet to support dry countries where children have to walk a really long way everyday to get water that may not be clean for their families,” she told the Westerly.
Theriault has raised over $3,500 since launching her Walk to Change campaign to help Free the Children’s efforts to bring access to food, water and education to youth throughout the world.
She hopes to see local support boost her total to $5,000 because, according to Free the Children’s website, $5,000 is enough to build a community well in an area of need.
“If you think about it, you take a lot of things for granted when you’re here because we’re so lucky to live here. You turn on the tap and you have water and I realized a lot of people can’t do that. Why can’t everyone be like us,” she asked.
“A reason to donate is if you want other people to be as lucky as us because there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t.”
She said her experience at Oct. 21’s We Day conference in Vancouver inspired her to take action.
All three of the West Coast’s schools are We Schools, which offer students year-round opportunities to pursue global change and local volunteerism. BC’s We Schools celebrate together at Vancouver’s annual We Day event.
“You can’t buy tickets to We Day you have to get them through doing something and making a change in the world like raising money or through service,” Theriault said.
This year’s roster of We Day speakers included Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and actress Marlee Matlin, according to We Day’s website.
Theriault is a member of her school’s We Team and participates in a variety of fundraising campaigns.
“I have a really amazing teacher, her name is Ms. Morris and she really likes fundraising,” she said.
She said a book her class read last year also inspired her.
“We read a book called A Long Walk to Water, it’s about the war in Sudan and a girl called Nya who really inspired me…She walked a really long way everyday to get water and then when she brought the water home her sister drank it and got very ill because it wasn’t good water,” she said.
She added water is heavy and not easy to carry.
With this inspiration behind her, she walked from her home to the Cox Bay Visitor Centre then to Incinerator Rock and along Long Beach to the Kwisitis Visitors Centre before heading up Wick Road to the junction and taking Ucluelet’s bike path for the rest of the way.
“My parents were really supportive, my dad walked the whole way with me,” she said adding, “My mom was an amazing support crew.”
She said various friends and supporters joined her for stretches of her journey and Tofino’s Sobo restaurant brought food to keep her nourished and moving forward.
“Everyone was so supportive, I’m really happy about that,” she said.
“It was all so nice to have everyone walking with us. It made it really fun and rewarding.”
Theriault’s fundraising started with her collecting pledges and donations in a jar and she then struck up a GoFundMe campaign online and turned to social media for additional support.
“I’ve raised over $2,000 through social media and raised about $1,500 through pledges,” she said. “Social media is everywhere, everyone has social media so as soon as it was on social media everyone knew and everyone was really supportive.”
She added locals don’t need to wait for a fundraiser to land in their backyard to support those in need.
“You don’t have to have somebody in your town doing a fundraiser, you can donate by yourself online,” she said. “There are so many online campaigns.”
She added her We School’s efforts also support locals and cited a Halloween Food Drive the students launched to help their local food bank.
“We Day isn’t just about people from other countries that you want to help, We Day is for everyone who needs it,” she said. “Even in Tofino there’s people who don’t have enough money and are really hungry.”
She said she was exhausted after her walk and very sore the next day but she plans to do it again next year.
“It was totally worth it. I really want to do this again next year,” she said.
“It was really fun and I raised a lot of money. I’m just going to do it for different causes.”
She added the walk made her realize how lucky locals are to have cars.
“We should think more about how lucky we are,” she said. “Cars take you so far so fast and you should be really thankful for having one if you do.”