Terry’s Dream inspires Jax’s Journey

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Terry’s Dream inspires Jax’s Journey
Jackson Charron-Okerlund

Jackson Charron-Okerlund is on Day 60 of his cross-country trek, passing through Hawkesbury, and headed for Ottawa via Alfred-Plantagenet and Clarence-Rockland. He is halfway through his schedule of walking and running across Canada in 120 days to honour the memory of Terry Fox and raise money to support cancer research.

«I’ve always been in awe of Terry Fox,» said Charron-Okerlund, explaining the reason behind his cross-Canada odyssey. «Terry ran halfway across Canada with one leg and a dream.»

Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Charron-Okerlund decided four years ago that he would honour both the dream and the memory of Terry Fox by doing his own cross-country marathon. After a long and intensive course of muscle- and endourance-building and training in long-distance running, Charron-Okerlund left his job as a support person for seniors and went to Newfoundland where Fox began his Marathon of Hope in April 1980. Charron-Okerlhund posed for a photo March 6 with the Terry Fox Memorial statue in St. John’s, then set off on his personal odyssey of hope.

“Working at the care home, I realized that the greatest gift in the world is the gift of life,” he said. “I wanted to take on a cause against something that takes people away from this world. Fortunately, I’ve still got everyone in the world that I deeply are about.”

Preparing for his cross-country odyssey was the first real challenge to Charron-Okerlund’s dream of following in Terry Fox’s footsteps. He chuckles as he recalled that his physical condition was “pretty average” when he first decided that he was going to a cross-Canada marathon against cancer. He started running every day for stamina and, when he wasn’t running, he was at the gym for weight training to build up his leg muscles.

“Squats, calf raises, and on the inclined bench,” he said. “Then I would finish with a ‘hot yoga’ session. My goal is to make at least 50 kilometres a day. Some days I may be doing 70 or 80 kilometres when I get to the Prairies.”

At the start of his journey, Charron-Okerlund was alone on the road, pushing a infant stroller, that he nicknamed Carter, which contained all the few possessions he figured he needed for his journey. On Day 40 just before leaving New Brunswick he was joined by Rob Ingram, his childhood friend, who brought a small camper van to serve as a support vehicle.

“He is my best friend in the whole wide world,” Charron-Okerlund said. “He decided to come out here and help make sure everything goes smoothly all the way to B.C.”

He livestreams his journey through TikTok and other social media. During his journey across the country, Charron-Okerlund meets people along the way who are following his progress and show their support with cash donations and sometimes a gift certificate for a meal at a local restaurant or gasoline for the van.

“People are becoming invested in the journey,” he said, “and seeing to it that I make it all the way safely.”

Jax’s Journey has also acquired a few corporate sponsors, like Telus, which has provided him and Ingram with free cellphones and an unlimited data plan so they can livestream all their adventures on the road to Port Coquitlam, B.C., Terry Fox’s home town. TNL Abatement and Remedial Inc. in St. Leonard, New Brunswick provided them with sleeping bags and a long-distance overhaul of their van, and an offer of more help for the journey should they need it. L’Artisan Yarn in New Brunswick gave them Brunswick and Sid, hand-crocheted moose and sloth dolls for mascots, and is donating the proceeds from sales of any other moose mascots to the project.

The two of them are in touch with and have the blessing of the Terry Fox Foundation. All the money collected during Jax’s Journey will go to the Fox Foundation for distribution to cancer research and support programs. A GoFundMe site is set up to collect donations. Right now the GoFundMe goal is $50,000. As of last Thursday morning, more than $13,000 in donations were pledged on the site at https://www.gofundme.com/f/cross-canada-run-for-cancer-research.

With the Prairies waiting for him beyond the Ontario border and the mountains of B.C. looming beyond, Charron-Okerlund is certain that Jak’s Journey will finish on time.

“I feel like a million bucks,” he said, smiling. “Like I could do another marathon.”



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