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Run raises funds for qathet Refugee Sponsorship group

Traversing Sunshine Coast Trail combines personal goal with group effort 
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LONG DISTANCE: Sean Byrne’s challenging run that covered the entire Sunshine Coast Trail was the first fundraiser for the qathet Refugee Sponsorship group, which is raising funds to bring a family to Canada.

Sean Byrne had a personal goal of covering the entire 180 kilometres of the Sunshine Coast Trail in one run. When an opportunity came up to tie this goal to an important fundraising effort, the qathet region resident was ready. 

Ellen Byrne, Sean’s wife, founded a group in May 2021 to raise the necessary funds to be able to bring a refugee family to the community. The qathet Refugee Sponsorship group is working toward raising $26,000, which is required by the Canadian government before it will cover the remaining costs of bringing a family to Canada. 

Sean’s recent Sunshine Coast Trail run was the first fundraiser for the group and successfully raised $5,930. 

He began his run at 6 am on September 4, from Sarah Point, which is just north of Lund, BC.

“Community support and family support was mind-blowing,” said Sean. “I wasn’t expecting it but it really kept me going through the hard parts.”

Ellen and a number of other family members and friends met Sean along the way. They brought food, water and additional supplies such as hiking poles, which gave Sean’s knees some much-needed extra support toward the end of his run. 

It rained the whole first day, so Sean had frequent shoe changes and tried to get his feet dry at aid stations along the way. “Preventing blisters was impossible,” he said. “But it wasn’t that bad. I was expecting to hit a mental block, but the community support really kept me going.”

Ellen said he smiled through the whole thing, arriving at every aid station with a smile on his face.

“He had such a good attitude in spite of the challenges,” she added.

Sean said it was thrilling to be doing something he never dreamed he’d be able to do.

“At every aid station I was like, I can’t even believe I’ve made it this far,” he added. “The adrenaline and the support kind of pushes you right through to the end.”

Sean ran through the night with just headlamps to guide him and his pacers, one just ahead of him to scope out the trail and one behind to make sure he didn’t fall too far behind.

“Pacers basically make sure you’re taking care of yourself,” said Sean.

His pacers made sure he stopped to eat, drink and do stretches.

Sean described how bats were flying in and out the fog and lights from their headlamps during the night, as well as the herd of elk that crossed their path at dawn at the base of Tin Hat Mountain. 

After running through rain, pain and darkness, Sean arrived in sḵelhp (Saltery Bay) after 35.5 hours.

“My knees were completely shot for the last 40 kilometres,” said Sean.

Even though he trained for months and felt strong going into the run, the distance and elevation was just too much for his knees. However, with lots of rest for the first couple of weeks after the run, his knees are recovering.

“It’s been about a month now and I’m just this week starting to do some shorter runs,” he said in early October. 

Once the sponsorship group has raised the required funds, it can begin the process of selecting and preparing for the arrival of a family, which would take between one and three months.

“We would select a family that we feel would fit in well with Powell River,” said Ellen. “This means looking at what resources we have available for them here and what their particular needs are.” 

For more information or to donate, email qathetrefugeesponsorship@gmail.com.