Alberta toddler walking 100 km to support loved ones with kidney disease

Little Sam McKail is marking 100 kilometres in partnership with the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Courtesy: Kidney Foundation of Canada, Southern Alberta and Saskatchewan

At just two years old, Sam McKail is taking on something no child his age has ever attempted.

The Alberta boy is walking 100 kilometres in 100 days to support his many family members who either have kidney disease or are kidney donors.

“At first it was disbelief,” his mom Kirstin Lehmann said of the overall response. “Could a two-year-old truly walk one kilometre a day for 100 days? Was this sustainable? Was this going to fizzle out after a few kilometres?

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

READ MORE: Hundreds walk for three days in Kidney March to raise awareness about disease 

Along the way, Sam will be carrying a little bucket and collecting pinecones.

Story continues below advertisement

“Sam loves a good walk,” Lehmann said. “In fact, usually I need to persuade him to turn around and come home.”

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

Some days, his one-kilometre walk takes him 25 minutes; other days, it takes 45 minutes, depending on how many pinecones he finds.

“Sam’s favourite part has been that he collected a massive stash of pinecones — probably a bucket full each day for the walks that he took,” Lehmann said with a smile. “We have since returned them to the forest since they were overwhelming our deck.”

On Wednesday, Sam and his family walked around the grounds at the Alberta Legislature.

“It’s been great to see that it’s such a family legacy,” Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said. “Three generations of people committed to this project.”

WATCH: Kidney donation in critical need 

Sam’s grandmother Marianne Janz donated her kidney anonymously before her first Kidney March and will be participating in her fifth march this year. Sam’s great-aunt Margot Janz donated her kidney in a paired exchange for her husband Brian, who received a kidney transplant in 2012. The couple will take part in the Kidney March together this year.

“We’re extremely proud of what he’s accomplished so far and we can’t wait to continue this in years to come. 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.”

Story continues below advertisement

This year’s Kidney March will take place Friday to Sunday between K-Country and Calgary.

The family says their mini marcher will walk his 99th kilometre by the end of the week and will join the Kidney March walkers on Sunday on the hill at Canada Olympic Park for his final kilometre.

Click here to support Sam and Team Gawley.

READ MORE: Alberta’s organ donor program lags far behind other provinces 

Hoffman praised Sam for creating a buzz around organ donation.

“We’ve increased from about 300,000 people signed up on the donor registry, over the last eight months, we’re up to 400,000 people now,” the health minister said. “We’re certainly making great progress. We’re excited to see those numbers grow and I think it’s because of initiatives like this.”

Sponsored content