Edmonton

Fort Saskatchewan toddler walking 100 kilometres in 100 days for Kidney Foundation

At first, people were skeptical, many wondering whether a toddler really could walk 100 kilometres in 100 days. But Sam McKail, all of two years old, plans to finish his long walk this weekend in Calgary.

'We're extremely proud of him, extremely proud of what he's accomplished so far,' mom says

Sam McKail and his mother, Kirstin Lehmann, take a break on the steps of the legislature.

At first, people were skeptical, many wondering whether a toddler really could walk 100 kilometres in 100 days.

But Sam McKail, all of two years old, plans to finish his long walk this weekend in Calgary. 

Shoes fastened with Velcro, the little boy made a quick lap around the pools on the Alberta legislature grounds on Wednesday, his mother and the province's health minister by his side.

He was wasn't the least bit distracted by cameras following his every move. 

The walk is intended to raise awareness about kidney disease and the work of the Kidney Foundation of Canada. 

Several of Sam's family members have received kidney transplants, and his grandmother donated one to help a loved one.

"My uncle would have a very different life were it not for his kidney transplant a few years ago," said Kirstin Lehmann, Sam's mother. "It would be very difficult for him to live his life."

'At first it was disbelief'

Since his walk began, little Sam has turned skeptics into believers, his mother said.

"At first it was disbelief," she said. "[People] would ask, could a two-year-old truly walk one kilometre a day for 100 days? Was this sustainable? Was this just going to fizzle out after just a few kilometres?"

But people have seen how far her son will go in order to complete his mission, she said, and how much the walk means to his family.

"Now it's just a big smile on every face as they recognize him around the community," she said.

The plan calls for Sam to walk his 100th kilometre on the weekend in Calgary, with his grandmother and another family member by his side.  

His finish will coincide with a walk to raise awareness and funds for the Kidney Foundation.

The toddler's final kilometer will end at the base of the hill at the Canada Olympic Park. His progress is being logged on his family's blog at www.greatnorthernfamily.com.

"Knowing that 80 percent of the people on the organ transplant list are waiting for a kidney, it just breaks my heart to think how many families are affected by this on a daily basis," Lehmann said. 

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman, left, walks with Sam McKail and his mother, Kirstin Lehmann.
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said the number of people willing to donate is going up. More than 400,000 people have signed up on the donor registry.

"I think it's because of initiatives like this, and little people like Sam who are helping excite people about being a part of organ donation," Hoffman said. "It's really great seeing families getting involved, three generations of people committed to this project."

At this time last year, the list of people in need of a transplant was at 600, Hoffman said. That total is down to 500 now.

"We're making great progress and we're excited to see those numbers grow," Hoffman said.

Lehmann has been beside her son every step of the way.

"We're extremely proud of him, extremely proud of what he's accomplished so far," she said.

"We can't wait to continue this in years to come, because his understanding will grow. And I think it's important for him to grow up knowing what he can do for other people, and what he can do for his community."

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