The sun was shining down on the Wounded Warrior runners as they arrived in Port Alberni.
The team ran down Highway 4 into Port Alberni on Thursday (March 3) afternoon. They were joined along the way by dozens of Port Alberni first responders, including firefighters, paramedics, and RCMP.
“There’s nothing like coming home,” said Maria Marciano, one of this year’s runners and a Port Alberni RCMP constable. “We’re all here, we’re all fighting for the same thing, and that’s mental health awareness.”
The trip from Comox to Port Alberni made up Day 5 of the Wounded Warrior BC run. The 600-kilometre relay-style run down the length of Vancouver Island is held annually to raise awareness and funds for Wounded Warriors Canada, which aims to bring awareness and raise funds for mental health programs and services offered to first responders.
Along the way, the team of runners and support staff will make visits to local Legions, community halls and sponsor locations.
Marciano also ran in the 2020 Wounded Warrior BC event, just as those Legions and community centres were beginning to close across the country in response to COVID-19.
“Knowing that they were opening up their doors for us for the first time in two years was even more incredible,” she said.
Marciano was joined this year by fellow Port Alberni resident and Canadian Coast Guard member Dave Nesbitt. Nesbitt planned to run in the 2021 relay before it was cancelled due to rising COVID-19 cases. He and Marciano instead held a solo run around the Alberni Valley.
His first full Wounded Warrior relay has been an emotional one, he said.
“It’s been amazing, the kindness of all the communities,” said Nesbitt. “We come in and everybody’s honking and waving, pulling over on the side of the road to hand us money and share their stories.”
The team had a welcome reception in Port Alberni. They gathered briefly at the Best Western Plus Barclay Hotel before moving on to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 293 for a fundraising spaghetti dinner.
The run continues this week, ending in Victoria on March 6.