Tseshaht First Nation youth raises more than $1K for cancer research

Sol Watts, right, has raised more than $1,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of his grandfather, Wally Samuel Sr., left. (PHOTO COURTESY SAMUEL FAMILY)
Sol Watts, right, has raised more than $1,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of his grandfather, Wally Samuel Sr., left. (PHOTO COURTESY SAMUEL FAMILY)
Sol Watts, eight, runs past the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council office during a two-kilometre fundraising run for the Canadian Cancer Society on Thursday, May 7, 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY SAMUEL FAMILY)
Sol Watts, eight, poses with great-grandfather Tony, whose wife and son both died of cancer. Watts ran two kilometres to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society on May 7, 2020. (PHOTO COURTESY SAMUEL FAMILY)
Sol Watts, second from right, with his proud family: father Richard Watts, left, Mother Robyn Samuel, younger sister Kessa and older sister Neve. Sol ran two kilometres and raised more than $1,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of his grandfather Wally Samuel Sr. (PHOTO COURTESY WATTS/ SAMUEL FAMILY)

Solomon Watts may only be eight years old, but the young man from Tseshaht First Nation did something big last week.

Watts ran two kilometres around the Tseshaht First Nation reserve and Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council compound on May 7 to raise more than $1,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society. He did it all in the name of his grandfather, Wally Samuel Sr., who has been undergoing treatment for colon cancer after surgery in December 2019.

Solomon, or Sol, is one of four children for Robyn Samuel and Richard Watts. His oldest sister, Shyanne Samuel, wasn’t able to be there to watch Sol’s run because she works in customer service and was self-isolating. However, his other two sisters—Neve and Kessa—were there, as was his great-grandfather Tony.

(Kessa, who is five years old, is ready to follow in her brother’s footsteps: she wants to raise money for the Terry Fox Run in the next few weeks by running the same route her school usually takes.)

The family has lost numerous members to cancer, including Tony’s wife eight years ago. The children were included in all the reading the family received from the Canadian Cancer Society when Wally received his diagnosis, so they are aware of what he has been going through.

“My kids just really miss their grandparents,” Robyn said. “We go visit them in their yard and my parents stay in their house. It’s at the point when they’re getting back in the van they say ‘I wish I could hug them.’”

She said her children have grown up knowing what it means to give their time to others, so Solomon’s wish to raise money was no surprise. Robyn has been fundraising for a youth basketball team for several years and “my kids have seen me sacrifice my time to take these kids to play in basketball tournaments.

The family had talked about how they could thank the cancer doctors and the people at the cancer centre in Victoria for the care they gave to their grandfather. Solomon came up with the run.

“My kid’s heart, you could say, is into giving.”

When Sol ran by his school, Haahuupayak, his teachers and both the retiring and incoming principals were outside the building waiting to cheer him on. “It was really important for him to have that because they haven’t seen (their teachers) in so long,” Robyn said.

“My son got a really good feeling out of the whole experience and seeing people that were important to him; reuniting people. The ‘c’ word—cancer—can be hard on people.”

At the end of the run, Sol had raised $977.10. With other donations coming in after that, he has raised more than $1,000. Family from the Gitxsan First Nation in northern B.C. have donated to his run, and on Friday Sol received a $50 donation from a friendship centre in Vancouver that heard of his fundraising efforts from Wally Samuel Sr.

Anyone wishing to donate to his fundraiser (or to Kessa’s) can still e-mail Robyn for an e-transfer to robynsamuel@hotmail.com.

Wally was able to watch Sol complete his run, but the two had to celebrate together from a distance. “I was proud of my grandson,” Wally said. “Him doing the run knowing my condition and aware what cancer can do. Wanting to help the Cancer Society.

“I had a lump in my throat and held back my happy tears. Before he ran, I told him how proud we are of him—he’s doing a good thing and to hold his head high,” he added.

“It was hard not being able to hug him and our family.”


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