Russell and his wife Doreen sitting on porch

Russell “Papa” Mackay, 82, walked from Beachburg to Ottawa in the hopes of raising $25,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). He arrived in Ottawa on Sept. 3 and to date, has raised $119,613. His wife, Doreen Mackay (above), and daughters Sherrie and Crystal, supported him throughout his ten-day journey. (Submitted photo)

CHEO fundraiser Papa Walks 4 Kids
raises nearly five times $25K goal

By Patricia Lebeouf

Posted on Thursday October 1, 2020

The inspiring achievements of Russell “Papa” Mackay are sure to dispel any preconceived notions of what an 82-year-old can and cannot do.

Despite being legally blind and diabetic, he walked 125 km from his home in Beachburg to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa. Papa Walks 4 Kids took about ten days, and his original hope was to raise $25,000 for the kid’s hospital.

Instead he raised nearly five times that amount, a stunning $119,613, and the fundraising is still ongoing.

He started by matching the first $5,000 with his own money, and it snowballed from there, with people’s generosity driving the fundraising ever higher.

“People can donate what they can...whatever people can do, it is appreciated,” said Papa before his long walk. “I appreciate everybody who wants to sponsor me.”

He started walking on Aug. 24, taking River Road into Arnprior then to Ottawa via Terry Fox Drive, arriving at his destination on Sept. 3.

For the last five km of the walk, he was joined by as many of his nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren as possible.

But why would he take on such a long journey?

It began when he first started losing his sight 15 years ago. His specialist was attached to CHEO and to get to his appointments, he would walk past sick children who were patients at the hospital.

“I would get very emotional,” Papa said. “There was one little boy who was crying for his dad, saying ‘Daddy, don’t leave me.”

Though he’s donated to the hospital before, he wanted to take it one step further.

“It’s really what got me going, all those little kids,” he added.

He is very fit for a man 82 years young as he religiously walks from their farm to the village every day.
“Since he’s decided to do this, he’s upped his game to increase his kilometres,” said his daughter Sherrie Mackay.

The plan was to split the overall walk into 12.5 km segments, taking breaks as needed. During the whole march, his daughters Sherrie and Crystal accompanied him to make sure he was safe. They alternated who drove a donated RV trailer and who marched next to him during the fundraising walk.

His family also set up a Facebook page under the “Papa Walks 4 Kids” moniker so people could follow him as he made his way through the Ottawa Valley. They also coined #PapaWalks4Kids to help spread the word on social media.

In addition, there was generous community support for the walk including fundraising efforts by Milano Pizzeria in Beachburg, as well as donations of clothing by Fabricland and Mark’s Work Warehouse in Pembroke to ensure his comfort.

“The community as a whole has been wonderful,” said Mackay.

For more information about Papa Walks 4 Kids, visit