Around 70 people participated in the first Kitsumkalum Walk for Health on Saturday, raising $17,500 for a new surgical microscope at Mills Memorial Hospital.
Starting at 10 a.m. on July 14, participants followed a 5 km route starting at the Tempo Gas Bar and along a trail through the Kitsumkalum Nation land. The walk took the place of the Kitsumkalum Tempo Fishing Derby, which after 10-years was cancelled following fishing restrictions placed on the Skeena River earlier this spring.
Organized by a committee comprised of the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation, Kitsumkalum and the Tempo Gas Bar, the annual fundraiser raises money to purchase new equipment at the Mills Memorial Hospital. Over the past decade, their efforts have raised close to $100,000, according to Ron Bartlett, chair of the hospital foundation. He said before the walk even started, organizers were able to raise $12,500 in corporate donations alone.
“It’s our first year and to see people from one side of the street to the other is amazing,” Bartlett said while walking down Kalum Road West.
Every penny fundraised from the Walk for Health will go towards purchasing a second surgical microscope for Mills Memorial Hospital’s regional ophthalmology program, worth $220,000. The Dr. R.E.M. Lee Hospital Foundation has committed to raising $150,000 towards the purchase of this equipment.
The hospital’s current microscope is 15-years old and with 1,100 surgeries done a year, having new high-tech equipment will be a huge benefit to eye specialists, according to Bartlett.
“They’re doing everything from cataracts to glaucoma to different lens replacements… there is a myriad of different things, so they’re constantly being used. This new high-tech digital microscope will give them a sharper image, a clearer image. It’ll be projected onto a screen, blown up in size, so they can really accurately do better and more work.”
While this is the first year the walk has replaced the regular fishing derby, Bartlett said the redesign is something their committee wants to build on for years to come.
“With fishing the way it’s been… it’s been mismanaged to a point now where we’ve had two years of collapse. We don’t want to impact the fish, and having a derby would do that. We decided to look for something else that we could do that would be as good or better, and then we build on that.”
After the walk, participants who paid the $35 registration fee chomped down on a Mr. Mikes burger and were entered into the grand prize for two tickets from Central Mountain Air.