Lt Aaron Niles of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is lacing up for a second time to march a 30 km route between Canadian Forces Base Borden and Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie, Ont. carrying a 30 lb ruck on his back to fundraise for cancer care.
This time last year, he wasn’t even sure it was possible.
“Last year there was an internal worrying that this initiative could fail,” said Lt Niles, who came up with the idea of the ‘Ruck for a Cure’ fundraiser in 2021 as a way to raise money to help families like his.
When his younger brother Sean was just four months old, he was diagnosed with infantile acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After three years of constant chemotherapy, the family was given grim news—Sean had only 30 days to live. Amazingly, an experimental treatment worked when nothing else would. It was enough to make it possible for him to undergo a painful but lifesaving bone marrow transplant with one of only two matching donors worldwide.
After being successful last year with the first march, and raising nearly $4,000, his mindset has shifted to “I can do it, and I can do it better.”
“I want to raise as much funds as possible for RVH so that those who are receiving treatment at the hospital can get the best care possible,” said Lt Niles. “The second goal is to raise awareness of the role we can all play in supporting those who have been affected by cancer.”
During the walk, anyone from the community is encouraged to join in for a portion of the journey from Base Borden to RVH and help carry the ruck. For Lt Niles, this symbolizes the impact it can have when we help each other carry the emotional weight of dealing with cancer—something he had kept largely to himself while going through it.
“After last year’s event, you can say the secret is out and those in my life now know about that difficult period in my life,” said Lt Niles, “and in some ways, that’s what this event is about. Everyone has been affected by cancer [at] some point in their life, personally, or through someone they know. Once you peel behind the surface you can see the pain, but we can always do something to help each other out.”
Today, Sean is twelve years old and healthy.
“I truly do think he is proud of what I am doing, and I hope I can continue to inspire him,” said Lt Niles.
With the second annual event, he’s hoping to continue fundraising towards his goal of $30,000 in support of patient care at RVH and the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Cancer Centre. The Ruck for a Cure takes place on Wednesday, 26 October, departing CFB Borden (Angus gate) at 0800 hrs and marching East on Highway 90 to RVH, with an estimated arrival time of 1430-1530 hrs.
Military and civilian members from the local community are invited to join in at any point during the walk. Those interested in supporting this initiative can donate online at the Ruck for a Cure fundraising page.
By: Emily Nakeff, Editor
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