In the summer of 2011, then second-year biochemistry student Alex Whynot (’14) and his family set out on a mission to spend some time together and face some personal challenges. Whynot’s father had undergone surgery for a brain tumour and was in the process of recovering from this difficult journey and preparing to head back to work again.
The Whynot family and supporters trained for and spent three days in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, hiking and camping, in support of a cause close to their hearts — the Terry Fox Foundation.
“I started a ‘quiet’ plan that saw my family and close friends hike the first Trek in the Cape Breton Highlands,” says Whynot. “Our team of four raised roughly $1,400 and hiked 75km, including 42.2km in a single day, recognizing what Terry Fox ran every day of his journey.”
Fast-forward six years. Whynot, now a third-year medical student at Dalhousie University, has organized six Treks, raising nearly $60,000 for the Terry Fox Foundation.
Treks have taken place in the Cape Breton Highlands, Gros Morne National Park, White Mountains National Forest (New Hampshire), Valley of Fire/Grand Canyon National Park, and this year, in celebration of Canada 150, Banff and Jasper National Parks. Over 80 people have participated, covering 11,000km of wilderness trail.
Many Allisonians have joined Whynot for Terry Fox Treks, including 12 Mount Allison grads and students for this year’s adventure.
“We’ve been working to engage with other universities and recruit new participants, but we’ve always had a solid group of Mount Allison people on our Treks — alumni, students, as well as staff members,” says Whynot. “It’s a neat experience to be a part of, you get to see old friends who might not have seen each other since graduation come together for this very special event.”
Hikers spend months preparing for the Trek each year, including an intensive 12-week fitness plan (similar to marathon training), as well as fund raising and logistical aspects to ensure the team has essential backwoods hiking and camping gear.
The group of 29 hikers spent six days in Banff and Jasper National Parks, hiking the Skyline Trail for their marathon day. They also visited Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park.
While Whynot hopes the Treks will continue, he also recognizes that his own time and energy as an aspiring doctor is becoming limited.
“I drove home from Calgary after this last Trek,” says Whynot. “We stopped in Thunder Bay to see the Terry Fox Monument and for me that gave a nice sense of closure to the year’s Trek. It was very grounding to look up and see that monument of a 22-year-old Terry Fox, to stop and see how far he had made it.”