When travelling between Edmonton and Calgary, most Canadians drive or take the bus to get from one Albertan city to the next. Not Spencer West. He's walking. And not on his feet either.
The 31 year-old Toronto native has been a double-amputee since he was a child, and is making the 300-kilometre journey from Edmonton to Calgary almost entirely on his hands. West started off Monday at Johnny Bright School and is walking down Hwy 2 Monday for 11 days until he reaches his Calgary destination.
The trek is not one of whimsy; The motivational speaker for Me to We is walking as part of Free The Children’s We Walk 4 Water campaign, which aims to raise money to provide 100,000 people around the world with a permanent source of clean water. West raised more than half a million dollars in a similar Me To We campaign when he climbed the 19,341 ft-high Mount Kilimanjaro last year.
He'll be joined by two friends, Alex Meers and David Johnson, as well as other friends, family and celebrity guests and will visit local Alberta schools and corporations along the way.
"When we announced Kilimanjaro last year, a lot of folks wanted to climb with us and it wasn't something we could feasibly do," West told The Huffington Post Canada last year. "So we’ll walk from Edmonton to Calgary and people can join us along the way."
He's hoping to cover an average distance of 30 kilometres a day mostly on his hands, and with the help of a wheelchair and protective gloves , to meet his target of raising $150,000.
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"Thirty kilometres a day is going to be rough," West told the Edmonton Journal. "Your arms aren't necessarily meant to be walked on so that's why I'm doing a bit on my hands and a bit in a wheelchair, to try to keep my shoulders in shape. I certainly can't afford to lose these at this point."
The two-foot-seven West was born with a spinal defect that rendered his legs nonfunctional, leaving doctors no choice but to amputate them when he was five. Doctors initially said that he would be unable to sit up or move around by himself, but West quickly learned how to use his arms to move, preferring them instead to metal prosthetics.
West joins other famous Canadians, including Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, who have completed similar feats to raise funds and awareness for their causes. Last year, Mark McIntyre 'gitchhiked' from British Columbia to Nova Scotia clad only in his underwear to raise more than $30,000 for testicular cancer.
With files from Lisa Yeung