British Columbia

101-year-old veteran starts walking fundraiser, following in footsteps of comrades-in-arms

Invermere, B.C., centenarian James Ashworth plans to walk four blocks a day to reach his goal of 101 blocks in order to raise money for the local food bank.

James Ashworth hopes to raise $101,000 for the Columbia Valley Food Bank

101-year-old James Ashworth is walking 101 blocks around his Invermere, B.C., neighbourhood to raise $101,000 for the local food bank. (Lawrie Mack)

Another B.C. centenarian, inspired by comrades-in-arms Tom Moore of England and John Hillman of Victoria, is walking blocks around his neighbourhood to raise money for his local food bank. 

Air force veteran James Ashworth, 101, is walking 101 blocks in Invermere, B.C., with the hope of raising $101,000 to support the Columbia Valley Food Bank. 

Like Moore and Hillman, Ashworth is a recipient of the Burma Star, which was awarded to those who saw active service in the Burma campaign of the Second World War. 

"There aren't many Burma Star people left so I decided to be the third one and get into the initiative of doing something in our valley," said Ashworth over the phone. 

Lawrie Mack, chair of the Columbia Valley Food Bank, said Ashworth's initiative will help fund long-term needs like providing food hampers, donating lunches and snacks to local schools and daycares, and offering more delivery service to people in remote areas.

"There are many ways we can look at making healthy food more available to people in the valley who need it," Mack said. 

Following suit

Ashworth said he tries to go for two walks most days — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — in order to complete his task of walking four blocks per day. He said he started the campaign on May 13. 

"The walking does me good," said Ashworth, who says he uses his cane to help him.

 

On May 16, 101-year-old Hillman completed his goal of walking 101 laps around his retirement home Carlton House in Oak Bay, B.C., raising more than $150,000 for Save the Children Canada's emergency COVID-19 relief fund. 

Both Ashworth and Hillman were inspired by 100-year-old Capt. Tom Moore, a British Second World War veteran who raised millions of pounds for the U.K.'s National Health Service by walking laps around his home. 

James Ashworth was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force for 25 years. (James Ashworth)

Military veteran

Ashworth was a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force for 25 years. He said he travelled to India and Burma from 1943 to 1944. He flew over 50 missions in that time, but had to return to Canada after contracting malaria and dengue fever, according to the biography on the fundraising page. 

He remained with the air force until 1966, moving around Canada for different postings. During his final assignment in Ottawa in 1965, Ashworth met his wife, Gaetane. They're still married today. 

Although she uses a wheelchair and can't walk with him each day, Ashworth says Gaetane, who's in her mid-80s, is on board with the campaign and supports him all the way. 

According to his tracking, Ashworth will complete his goal of 101 laps by the first week of June. 

"Of course, if I still feel well after the 101 [laps], I'll keep going," he said.

As of Monday morning, Ashworth had already raised just under $7,500.

With files from Deborah Goble and Roshini Nair

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