Stepping out for self esteem

Bart Zych is walking 1,100 km on his own to raise awareness, and money to help kids with low self esteem.

  • Jul. 18, 2013 3:00 p.m.

Bart Zych in Fernie Thursday morning

Bart Zych is walking 1,100 km on his own to raise awareness, and money to help kids with low self esteem, and hopefully reduce violent crime among youth.

Zych, from Vancouver, stopped by The Free Press on Thursday morning right after he hit the 800 km mark on his journey, which he calls the iforCommunity project.

The walk has taken him from Hope, B.C. and will end in Calgary, with the aim of raising $50,000 for the Children’s Aid Foundation, a charity that helps neglected and disadvantaged kids in Canada.

Zych arrived in Fernie on Wednesday afternoon just before a big thunderstorm rolled into town, and managed to take shelter in Rotary Park before camping at Maiden Lake for the night.

He is walking completely alone, and pushing his gear in a customized jogging stroller. He can’t carry a backpack because he shattered his knee and had reconstructive knee surgery last year.

“I left Hope on June 17 and have been walking and fundraising completely alone, and sleeping outdoors,” Zych said. “I walk about 30 km per day.”

Zych said he’s had many ups and downs, emotionally and physically, “as I had one of my knees reconstructed last year, and one of them is not fully healed yet.”

Zych, who is originally from Poland, doesn’t have any children of his own, but he believes they are the future of society, and need to be protected. Recent events in the news — the Amanda Todd tragedy, for instance, and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, were motivating factors that prompted him to undertake the fundraising venture.

“So I started looking for an organization that’s Canadian, which specifically benefits kids,” he said.

Children’s Aid fit the bill — then Zych had to ask the question of how he could support the foundation.

“I got to wondering what I could do. What can I do? Well, I can walk.” Zych said that while that may sound trite, in fact it is remarkable that he can actually do this trek — after having had surgery on both knees, only recently on his right knee.

“I can’t bike, or run,” he said. “The surgeons didn’t even know if I would be able to bend my knee after the most recent surgery. But I ended up being able to.”

That recovery, against odds, Zych said, was another motivating factor.

Temperatures are expected to soar in coming days, but Zych said he’s going to appreciate it. After all, he spent the first nine days of his trek in pouring rain.

“I remember being in my soggy tent, in wet clothes at the start of the walk, and thinking I could leave my stuff with a farmer, go home, then come back when the weather is better to continue the journey,” he said. “But then I thought, well the kids can’t do that. They can’t take a break from life when it’s hard and rejoin it later. So I carried on.”

He added that he is walking with the full blessing and support of the Children’s Aid Foundation.

He is not sure how much he has raised so far, but he said that every time he gets a donation, his phone pings. “When I hear that sound it is a little extra motivation to keep going,” he said. “And that’s really appropriate because it shows how we all just need a little encouragement to boost our self esteem from time to time to keep us going.”

For more information on Zych and his trek, or to make a donation, visit www.iforCommunity.org.

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