Walking with the stars lighting his path and the northern lights dancing above, Guy Poole was missing his wife. It was a year and a half that she passed from a painful fight with diabetes, with the last few years of her life spent in tremendous pain.
As Poole soaked in the quiet night time air he was suddenly struck with inspiration. At that moment, he knew he would do something about diabetes. He returned home to sleep on what it could be.
It was over a cup of coffee the next morning when the idea of Liz’s Walk hit him.
“I thought if I walk across the province, across Labrador, maybe I could raise money,” he said. “Maybe we could get enough money to find a cure for diabetes.”
Unsure where the walk would take him or how long it would be, in 2006 Poole began a 200km journey from Pinsent’s Arm to Lodge Bay and all the access roads in between.
The walk could have ended there if it wasn’t for and encouraging note from a nine-year-old Natalie Dempster of Charlottetown, Labrador, who was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes when she was six.
“It was my mom’s idea,” Dempster, now 15, said. “She thought it would be nice because I have that connection to him, where his wife passed away from diabetes.”
In the note it said ‘I hope you find a cure’.
“And that just struck a soft spot in my old heart,” Poole said. “And I told her I would keep walking until they find a cure or I can't walk no more. And I won't go back on my promise; I'm here for the long haul.”
Dempster had no idea how much of an impact it would have on him.
“When I wrote it I just thought it was a kind act, I didn't think anything of it. I was just happy to do it because he was giving so much. Never underestimate a kind word or a kind act, because it goes much farther than you'd ever expect or know.
Poole said it was a life-changing moment for him.
“I realized then that there are little girls and little boys that have this disease, and they're going to have it for the rest of their lives. My wife died with it, and she was really sick. I wouldn't want anyone out there to be as sick as my wife was.”
Every year since Poole has picked up where he left off. On Sunday, September 9, Poole and his support team left Churchill Falls before daylight and made their way toward Labrador West.
Poole walks approximately 30km each day, and the longest day was 37km. His walk begins an hour before daylight until 5-6pm.
It doesn’t get boring, he said.
“I've seen Labrador up close and personal. We've got beautiful country. When you walk the highway it's a great chance to think. We stop at dinner time and have a kittle. Smoked salmon or roast capelin, that's the kind of stuff I eat when I'm on the walk.”
His team includes his brother-in-law, girlfriend, and friends who follow along in front of him in a truck, always keeping him in sight for safety.
“I wouldn't have been able to do it if it wasn't for the team of people that I've got. I can't walk 30 km and then walk back 30 and function the next day. They pick me up in the evening and bring me back to where I'm staying.”
As Poole stops in each community he’s greeted with supporters who walk the roads with him and give donations which go to the Canadian Diabetes Association for research. So far over $30,000 has been raised.
“I can't believe the support that I've had. All these people, strangers that I've never met before, coming out on the walk with me. This walk is the people's walk. Every year it seems to be growing. Now I'm here in Labrador City and Wabush and I can't believe the support I've been given. It's amazing.”
Pool said the walking would be worth it if just one person’s life is changed into living a healthier lifestyle, preventing Type-2 diabetes.
“But my ultimate dream is that they would find a cure, and then I could hang up my boots,” he said.
After seven years of delay due to medical complications, hospitalizations, and school commitments, Dempster was finally able to accomplish her dream of walking with Poole, and joined him for 15km her first day, and 10km to Poole’s final destination of the Labrador West/Quebec border.
Dempster said the walk with Poole has meant a lot to her.
“For him to have such heart and kindness to bring change to society and raise money and awareness for prevention to the lives of so many who suffer with diabetes, it's incredible. He's a great man for doing this. I think he has years left to do this, he's young at heart.”
A celebration was made by supporters as Poole crossed the Labrador border, where he accomplished his original goal he made in 2006.
But Poole said he’s not finished yet.
“We’ll pack it up and go home and get ready for next year,” he said.
Next year Poole will be 69, not that it means anything.
“Age is nothing. If you feel good, then what's age? You're only as good as you feel and right now I feel pretty good.”