Manitoba

Metis teen raises over $10K running for Drag the Red

Kayleen McKay ran 450 kilometres in 11 days to honour her cousin Shawn Nepinak, who took his own life in the Red River in 2015.

Kayleen McKay's run raised awareness about missing and murdered indigenous people

Kayleen McKay is home after running for 11 days

7 years ago
Duration 1:35
Kayleen McKay ran 450 kilometres in 11 days to honour her cousin Shawn Nepinak, who took his own life in the Red River in 2015.

Kayleen McKay ran 450 kilometres in 11 days to honour her cousin Shawn Nepinak, who took his own life in the Red River in 2015.

Shawn Nepinak took his own life in the Red River in July 2015. His cousin Kayleen McKay ran in his honour. (Facebook)

His body was found by Drag the Red, a volunteer search group that uses hooks and chains to drag the bottom of the river.

"At first I thought it would just be a run to honour my cousin, then it grew into something much bigger than that," said McKay.

McKay, 18, left her Metis community of Duck Bay on April 30. She ran 45 kilometres a day, through The Narrows, down the east side of Lake Manitoba.

Along the way, she met many people touched by the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women. She said many stopped her to share their stories.

"Every time I heard a new story I would just keep it in the back of my head," she said. "When I felt down I would just think of them and their families because I knew they were sending strength and prayers along the way and it just gave me that push to keep going."

McKay was accompanied by her father and brother, who drove in vehicles in front and behind her as she ran.

Kayleen McKay ran 450 kilometres in 11 days. She started in Duck Bay, ran through The Narrows, down the east side of of Lake Manitoba. (Kayleen McKay)
"She has inspired me to look at life completely different now," said McKay's father, Melvin Pangman. "I'm so proud of what she accomplished here, it is going to change her life forever.

The run was also a fundraiser for Drag the Red. McKay said it was a way to say thank you to the volunteers for helping find her cousin.

Kayleen McKay, centre, was greeted by her friends at the Alexander Docks. (Jillian Taylor)
She raised $8,000 while she was on the road and was presented with another few thousand when she reached the Alexander Docks, which helped exceed her fundraising goal of $10,000.

The Manitoba Metis Federation helped support and promote McKay's run. It also donated over $6,000 to her cause, bringing the total to more than $14,000 and growing.

"I was really happy because I reached beyond my goal," she said. "I'm really proud of myself and I know everyone is really proud of me."

Members of Drag the Red sang an honour song for McKay. 

Kayleen McKay hugs Kimbery Kostiuk, who is a member of Drag the Red. (CBC News)
"Without you we wouldn't be able to do what we are doing," Kimberly Kostiuk said to McKay in front of her supporters. "Everybody in Winnipeg appreciates you and you are my hero,"

McKay and her father plan to go shopping for a new boat with the money they raised, so Drag the Red can have a reliable ride this summer.

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