Moss Street Review
Originally published: 2008
When 78-year-old Sister Lucy Dumont takes her place at the start of the Royal Victoria Marathon this October, she will be continuing a walk that began four years ago. “Back then I couldn’t go more than a few steps without my walker. I was often in great pain and afraid I would soon be confined to a wheelchair,” says Sister Lucy.
When she asked her doctor if there was anything she could do, he urged her to be more active. So she decided to try to walk every day. “At first, I couldn’t even get around the block,” she says, “I would just go as far as I could, then try again the next day.” Slowly, she began to walk farther. One block became two, two became three, and before long Sister Lucy was leaving the walker at home when she went out.
“The more I walked, the better I felt,” says Sister Lucy, “Some days were harder than others of course, but I just kept at it. Then one day a friend asked me if I would walk with her in a 10 km race. It seemed like such a long way, and I didn’t really think I could do it, but I said yes anyway. I thought it would be a good goal to work towards.”
10 km under her belt
Sister Lucy increased the length of her daily walks gradually to prepare for the race. When the big day came, she was ready and completed the whole distance without her walker. “It was an inspiration to walk with so many other people of all ages and sizes,” she says.
Soon after her 10 km walk, Sister Lucy was at Mount St. Mary Hospital, where she has worked as a volunteer for many years. She heard that the hospital had been selected by the Royal Victoria Marathon as one of its recognized charities. Because her friends at the hospital knew about her walking, they asked if she would do the 8 km Road Race with them and help gather pledges to raise funds for hospital beds. “Of course, I said yes,” says Sister Lucy, “I know what a difference good mattresses make – especially when so many of our wonderful residents are bedridden.”
The Royal Victoria Marathon pledge program
The Royal Victoria Marathon (RVM) has been held in Victoria on Thanksgiving weekend for the past 28 years. Runners from all over the country come to participate in a 42 km Marathon, 21 km Half Marathon or 8 km Road Race. The RVM is open to runners, walkers, wheelchair participants and kids; over 10,000 people participate.
In 2005, the Victoria Marathon Society launched a charity pledge program inviting charities to market their cause to participants and their constituents, offering them an opportunity to support their cause by raising per-mile pledges. Charities don’t have to help organize the event, but focus on promoting the pledge program and working with pledge collectors. Since 2006, Mount St. Mary Foundation has been selected as one of the RVM’s recognized charities.
“We are proud of this partnership project that supports local, provincial and national charities,” says Cathy Noel, General Manager of the RVM. “People don’t have to participate in the marathon to collect pledges. Everyone can be involved – runners, walkers, pledge gatherers, and donors. It really adds meaning to race day. And 100 percent of all pledges collected go directly to the charity.”
From 8 km to a half marathon
When Lucy went to register for the 8 km Road Race, she decided she couldn’t sign up for a shorter distance than the 10 km she’d already completed. “If I was going to ask people for pledges, I wanted it to be for something worthwhile, so I foolishly signed up for the half marathon – a whole 21 kilometres!” she says, “I wondered what I’d done!”
Sister Lucy’s cheerful determination to keep walking despite her health difficulties was an inspiration to those she met each day. Soon others had signed up for the race, and were training with her. By race day, there were 18 people on the Mount St. Mary team, and Sister Lucy had single-handedly brought in a third of the $20,000 in pledges the team raised.
“Sister Lucy was incredible,” says Mandy Parker, Executive Director of the Mount St. Mary Foundation, “She was out there every day, talking to people, gathering pledges, and walking, walking, walking. It was impossible not to be inspired.”
City Hall Challenge
On race day 2006 when City Councillor Chris Coleman made an off-hand remark about joining Sister Lucy on her walk the following year, he had no idea she would remember the comment – and take him up on it. “I thought if I could do it, Chris could too,” says Sister Lucy, “So I challenged him to walk the half marathon with me and match any pledge I collected.”
“How could I say no to a nun?” says Coleman. “She was so passionate about raising money for the residents at Mount St. Mary Hospital that I agreed right away. It’s ironic that just a few months later, my own mother needed a higher level of care and moved into Mount St. Mary Hospital. I could see very clearly when I visited her, just how important fundraising was to the comfort of all the residents.”
Coleman joined the 33-person strong ‘Mount St. Mary-thoners’ team at the start line of the 2007 RVM and walked every step of the half marathon with Sister Lucy. “It was a great day,” he says, “Great company, a great cause – and really hard work!”
Together, the Mount St. Mary-thoners raised over $20,000, with Chris Coleman and Sister Lucy’s each raising more than $5,000 in pledges.
Walking into the future
Is Sister Lucy ready to hang up her walking shoes after two half marathons? Not a bit of it. She and Chris Coleman have joined forces once again to raise funds for specialty mattresses designed to support more weight, and for durable shower commode chairs.
“The marathon is a real team effort for the “Mount St. Mary-thoners” says Sister Lucy, “We do it for the residents. When I see how courageous they are in facing their health problems, I’d walk ten marathons to help!”
Sister Lucy says there’s lots of room on the team for anyone who wants to walk with her. “But I know how hard it is,” she says, “So I tell people to ‘Just be who you are and do what you can’. If you can’t walk 21 km, try 8 km. Or cheer from the sidelines and collect pledges. Or think about pledging for one of our team members. Whatever you can do is a direct help to our residents.”
This year, the Mount St. Mary-thoners are hoping to raise $25,000 in what they’re calling the “We Love Lucy” campaign. It seems an apt name, as Lucy seems to inspire love in everyone she meets.
For more information about Mount St. Mary, the RVM, and how you can be involved, visit the Mount St. Mary Foundation website at www.msmfoundation.com[Addendum: Sadly, Sister Lucy passed away on January 2, 2016. May she always serve as an inspiration to her friends and family.]