Two 100 Mile youths who organized a Peace Walk for Ukraine Sunday have raised more than $8,000 for the war-torn country, and donations continue to pour in.
Rowan Hermiston, 10, and Karl Lundsbye, 11, said they were surprised by the staggering total, which was bolstered by an individual $800 donation from Flat Lake-area resident Claudia Ring and a $4,500 contribution from the Sheridan Lake community.
“It was a lot of fun and we raised a lot of money,” said Rowan, a Mile 108 Elementary student.
She and Karl initially hoped to collect $200 for the Ukrainian Red Cross but their goal kept climbing, to keep pace with a rising tally of donations. Karl said he “definitely” did not think they would raise so much money, and was surprised so many people came out for the march on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
They said they hoped the money would go towards transportation for people fleeing the violence in Ukraine, or food for those “still stuck in their basements hiding.”
Dozens of people, including Ring, joined the youth in walking around the 1.5-kilometre marsh in solidarity with Ukraine. The two youth completed eight laps, or 12 kilometres.
“A lot of the refugees have to walk a lot, like 50 kilometres, so that’s why I think it’s a great idea to walk,” said Ring, 78. “I think it’s a great idea to support kids who are engaged and want to do something and that’s why I came.”
Ring said she was compelled to help Ukraine after living through war herself. She remembers fleeing East Germany as a child with her mother.
“I was upset with what was happening and instead of constantly watching the news on the computer I decided to do something and collect money for the refugees,” Ring said. “I started to sew Ukrainian masks so people could make a statement when they have the mask on their face.”
She had collected $800 from her mask sales - she sold them by donation at Parkside Art Gallery - when she read about the youth’s peace march.
“I was so impressed with what they were doing and what they were going to do and I thought I want to donate the money I made for the masks to them and then they can send the whole amount to Ukraine and make them feel more successful.”
On Monday, Rowan and Karl met a group of residents in Sheridan Lake’s Edall Bay neighbourhood, where family and friends pitched in to donate close to $4,500 for the fundraiser, much to the youth’s excitement.
“What these kids have done is amazing. They have inspired a whole community for something so positive,” one neighbour said.
The youth’s mothers thanked the community for coming out to support their children and help Ukraine.
“We are blown away by the support and so proud of the kids, that they spearheaded such an important endeavour,” said Melissa Hermiston. who added she is proud of her daughter. “The way the community came out and supported them really showed they can make a difference, even at such a young age. It really has shown the kids they can do something that’s positive.”
108 Mile Ranch resident Heidi Lier, who has been protesting with a Ukrainian sign on the highway and came out for the march, said it was “awesome to see two young people fighting for peace and bringing us together.”
Both she and the youth said they were inspired by Canim Lake resident Peter Reichert, who started protesting on Highway 97 as soon as the invasion began in Ukraine.
“I hope he knows what his protest has started and how it has spread,” she said. “It really has started to help me have faith again. That we can come together for the greater good.”
As for Rowan and Karl, the duo said the experience has taught them there are “a lot of nice people” who are willing to help out for an important cause.
“We can’t save the world,” Rowan said.
“But we probably can if we work together,” Karl added.