Dave Grandy is busy breaking in new, winterized gumboots this week.
They’ll easily handle the rain, mud and snow he’ll encounter over the next few months. But more importantly, they’ll carry him well on a 175-km walk he embarks on this Friday.
He’ll leave from downtown Chilliwack early in the morning, and walk a loop out to Rosedale and Agassiz, Mission and Abbotsford, and back to Chilliwack again.
This will be his fifth such walk, all in an attempt to give back to Ruth and Naomi’s Mission. In his first four years, he raised a total of $27,200. That’s gone directly to fund the two Christmas Day dinners RAN puts out, along with the many gifts and hampers their guests receive on Christmas Day.
This year Grandy has already raised $5,500 — and he hasn’t even set out yet. But when he does, he’ll be sporting reflective wear and rain gear. And he’ll have a support RV, provided each year by Fraserway RV. Their lot in Abbotsford is one of his stopover spots for a place to sleep.
“I stand out, that’s the idea,” he says. “And the RV is behind me or goes ahead and waits for me, with the flashers on.”
His first year was a wet one, he recalls, but he’s always prepared for the worst. And nothing would stop him from this campaign. But he does find balance out on the road. Some days he’ll walk up to 40 km, other days he’ll top out at about 15 km.
There’s some flexibility there, he says, but he knows that the last few days he will have circled back to Chilliwack and will be staying in the RV in the Walmart parking lot. While he’s there, he’ll be in meet and greet mode and ready to talk about his walk, his story, and how Ruth and Naomi’s helped him on his way.
“I’ll tell them what it’s all about and give them a brochure with the website where they can donate through the computer,” he says.
Grandy was one of the first 10 residents to stay long term at Ruth and Naomi’s, five years ago. He credits the mission with helping him, but says his mindset also has been to always improve himself.
“I just kept trying to move forward,” he says. “I’ve been up and down the ladder but I’ve now figured out a simple to do it. I’ve learned how to survive on very little, and I’m no longer homeless.”
He’s very aware of how quickly someone can go from being well off to standing in a soup kitchen.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “It could go sideways this afternoon.”
Bill Raddatz, executive director of Ruth and Naomi’s says Grandy is truly a class act. Five years ago, he found his way to the mission for the odd meal and warm bed. He had been homeless for seven years at that point, and had lived through homeless times in his life prior to that.
But it was the mission here in Chilliwack that has helped him back on his feet, and because of that he walks every winter to pay thanks.
Not many people turn around and help out the Mission after they’ve turned their lives around, and the fact Grandy keeps this annual journey up is “phenomenal in itself,” Raddatz says. “He’s very unique.”
He chooses to walk the loop around this end of the Fraser Valley to highlight the issue of homelessness here, Grandy says.
To donate to the walk or learn more about Ruth and Naomi’s visit them at ranmission.ca.