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Cross-Canada runner receives warm welcome at Salmon Arm school

Inspired by Terry Fox, Jon Nabbs is raising funds for childhood cancer research
Jon Nabbs speaks with North Canoe Elementary School students after sharing a presentation about his cross-Canada run to raise money for Childhood Cancer Canada and New Zealand’s Child Cancer Foundation on Friday morning, Feb. 9, 2024. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

While he may not technically be a superhero, Jon Nabbs was recognized at North Canoe Elementary School for his kindness, and his bravery in the face of Canadian wildlife and winter weather.

In May 2023, the native New Zealander embarked on a mission from St. John’s, NL, to run the 7,524 kilometres across Canada, following in the footsteps of Canadian legend, and Nabbs’ inspiration, Terry Fox. Along the way he’s raising funds for Childhood Cancer Canada and New Zealand’s Child Cancer Foundation.

Nabbs arrived in Salmon Arm on Thursday, Feb. 8. The following morning, dressed in the costume of another Canadian hero, Superman, Nabbs stopped in at North Canoe Elementary where he shared the story of his journey with the students.

“Jon’s here and he’s doing a really phenomenal kindness…,” said principal David Wellingham, introducing Nabbs. “Jon’s not trying to be Terry Fox, Jon’s trying to be Jon, and he’s his own person, but he’s also doing a really great thing.”

Nabbs’ slide presentation began with a short geography lesson, first showing the route he’s taking across the country before delving into his country of origin, beginning with the question: “Who has seen the movie The Lord of the Rings?”

Nabbs then explained the why behind his journey that has him pushing a stroller containing his necessities across the country.

“I’ve been hoping while doing this that I can help inspire people a little bit and encourage them to contribute money and funds to a cause that has really called out to me, which is cancer research and finding a cure for cancer because it has affected so many people’s lives, including my family…,” said Nabbs, who lost his parents, Margaret Forsyth and Brian Nabbs, to cancer a couple of years ago. Their diagnoses taught him the “importance of continuing to find hope, inspiration, joy, and trying to live through that period on your own terms.”

Along his journey, Nabbs has been visiting children’s hospitals and cancer centres, inspiring others while also finding further inspiration himself. A slide from two weeks prior showed Nabbs with a young patient at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary.

“She was such a happy child, even though she was going through chemotherapy,” said Nabbs. “She’d lost all of her hair because of the chemotherapy and the medicine she needed to take… she was so inspiring to me, to see how happy she was despite the pain she was going through. It taught me a lesson – those days when I’m out there running and I feel like I want to stop – yeah, she’s a real superhero.”

Read more: Cross-Canada runner reaches Revelstoke, following in the steps of Terry Fox

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Such visits, said Nabbs, are the reason for the Superman costume, which he wears to help put a smile on kids’ faces.

Nabbs then asked the students if they could guess some of the challenges he’s faced along the way. The first answer: “the cold.” Nabbs said absolutely, noting he was outside Calgary when the temperature hit -53 C.

“Before I left New Zealand, the coldest I’ve ever felt was -5 C,” said Nabbs. “Thankfully, someone came along and picked me up and brought me inside their house so I could wait out the really cold stuff.”

Another challenge: “a bear.” Nabbs said he’s come across bears, moose and other wildlife not native to New Zealand.

“There’s just birds and fish where I come from,” said Nabbs, noting how in one encounter a bear strew the contents of his stroller across the ground and ate his food.

Injuries have also been an issue, making Nabbs want to stop numerous times on his journey.

“One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from this whole thing… if we set a goal, we’re always going to come across challenges along the way,” said Nabbs. “The thing I’ve noticed that has really kept me going is keeping in mind – imagining the end… reaching the fundraising goal of raising $100,000 for children… or actually making it to Victoria and reaching the Pacific Ocean. Those things give me so much energy to keep going.”

Nabbs’ original fundraising goal was $60,000. That goal was reached on Jan. 11 when he was in Calgary, so the goal was increased to $100,000.

Nabbs continues to post updates on his Instagram along the way. To donate to his fundraising efforts, visit his website.

With files from the Revelstoke Review.

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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