Russell “Papa” Mackay may be legally blind and diabetic, but that didn’t stop him raising approximately $16,000 for Hospice Renfrew. His grandson Cody Mackay was with him in Beachburg before he began his walk. (Photo submitted by Sherrie Mackay)
Papa walked in different towns throughout Renfrew County to raise money, giving his wife Doreen Mackay a good luck kiss before he headed out on Oct. 7. Last year he walked 125 km to CHEO, raising $120,638. (Photo submitted by Sherrie Mackay)
Papa walks for Hospice Renfrew, raises $16,000
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday November 4, 2021
Following the success of his 2020 fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Russell “Papa” Mackay laced up his shoes again this year to walk in communities throughout Renfrew County to support Hospice Renfrew.
Though the 83-year-old is legally blind and diabetic, he has decided to spend his golden years walking for various charities.
“When you die, you can’t take it with you,” said Papa. “I don’t have a big pile of money, but I have bit of money, and I’ve done things for my kids, so now it is time to help with charities.”
His most recent efforts raised $16,000 for Hospice Renfrew; last year he made the 125 km trek from his home in Beachburg to CHEO, raising more than $120,000 for the pediatric health-care and research centre.
It’s a feat most people would balk at.
Though his latest fundraiser was a shorter trek, it was no less important. He walked 33 km in three days, visiting different towns in Renfrew County from Oct. 7 to 10. He received support from every community he walked through, with people cheering him on and making generous donations. In Renfrew, he was even accompanied by a bagpiper and members of the town’s council, ending that leg of his journey at the fairgrounds.
Papa admits he is used to traversing long distances on foot after decades of working on a farm in Westmeath.
When he moved to Beachburg, he just traded the fields and barns for the village’s sidewalks. He’s become a common and beloved sight to residents during his daily walk.
“It’s like when you leave your job, and you are just watching TV, then you wonder what you are going to do with your time, so that is the same for me,” Papa said. “I realized I wasn’t busy, so I just started walking.”
He decided to focus his efforts this year towards Hospice Renfrew as the residential palliative care home must fundraise about 60 per cent of its annual operating budget and the past few months have been difficult. His donation will help purchase new furniture.
“They really needed those beds for Hospice,” said Papa.
He has already started planning his next walk. It will start at the University of Guelph and end at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, about 96 km away. He will have to plan that route very carefully as he must avoid dangerous highways and roads. But he is not worried and is eager to take to the streets again.
“The only way that I’m going to stop walking is when it’s time to go and that’s up to the big guy upstairs,” said Papa. “The more I walk, the better I feel. He’s with me.”