Charteris man walks across the Pontiac for CHEO

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Russell “Papa” Mackay departs on his walk for CHEO August 22 in Portage-du-Fort. Accompanied by son, Shane Mackay.

Jamie Cameron

MRC PONTIAC – Russell Mackay, better known by most as Papa, began his fourth big walk – this one 50 km – through the Pontiac starting August 22 at the Anglican Church in Portage-du-Fort; he ended that day at the caution light at Highway 148 in Shawville. August 25, he went from Bryson to Fort-Coulonge, and then on August 26, he walked through Otter Lake. He then drove to Ladysmith and walked to the Shawville Fair, August 31.

“I do this for the kids. When I had surgery on my eye, I walked through CHEO to get to my appointment and overheard a child ask his father to take him home. The father said ‘sorry son, I can’t today’, and this got to me deeply,” said Mackay. “So after my appointment, I told my wife I was going to walk to CHEO,” he added. Members of the CHEO foundation, Lynne Cameron, Mayor of Portage, Edward Walsh, Mayor of Clarendon and Shawville Lions member, Betty Leach of the Bryson Lions and members of the Beachburg Lions Club all attended the launch of the walk and spoke. The Shawville and Bryson Lions clubs donated money, the Pontiac Home Bakery donated donuts and Tim Horton’s donated coffee for the event.

Mackay’s first walk was 125 km from Beachburg to CHEO in 2020. His next was for Sick Kids Toronto, and then for the Renfrew Hospice. He said this is his last walk given that he’s in his 80s, diabetic, and 85% blind, so he wanted to end his streak with another walk for CHEO, where it all started. “I thought I may not be able to do it. I was completely blind for a brief period this weekend. I guess the guy upstairs felt sorry for me and my vision came back a bit, so I’m here,” he told the Journal.

Mackay’s grandfather is buried at the Anglican Church cemetery where this walk started and he lived in the old Bed & Breakfast in town. Mackay grew up in Charteris.