Locals are calling Jim Ashworth Invermere’s national treasure.
The 101-year-old veteran is closing in on his goal of walking 101 blocks for local charities.
“Because of this virus, everything’s changed,” Ashworth said. “People have got to get together and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
The idea came to Ashworth three weeks ago after seeing similar movements take off among veterans in England and Vancouver Island.
While he’s never met them, something they have in common struck a chord.
Ashworth walks four blocks a day from his home in the southeastern British Columbia community to a nearby long-term care facility where he’s become something of a local celebrity.
Staff members and residents often cheer him on from behind windows and fences.
“We’re cheering you on, Mr. Ashworth, we’re so proud of you, all the residents and all the nursing staff,” a staff member called out while Global News was on location with Ashworth.
In three weeks, the campaign has raised more than $21,000 for the Columbia Valley Food Bank.
“That’s 20 per cent of our annual operating budget, which is pretty darn good!” food bank chair Lawrie Mack said.
It’s enough money that Ashworth is not only supporting the food bank, but two other programs as well.
“The hot meal program, which provides hot meals including an entrée, salad and soup and dessert twice a week to about 120 people in the valley,” Mack added.
“Also the school snack program. With the schools closed, kids who relied on the school for snacks couldn’t access that. The Youth Centre next door said, ‘We need to do something,’ so the food bank kicked in a significant cash donation and anything extra we have here.”
Ashworth hopes to walk his 101st block this Saturday, heading from his home to the food bank for a small celebration.
He’s even been sent a special walker by a Danish company as a thank-you for his initiative.
“It certainly hits me dead centre,” Ashworth said. “I think it’s excellent it worked out so well.”
Even with one finish line crossed, he won’t hang up his runners, or stop fundraising — after all, he says it’s the key to his longevity.