Tears of joy, comfort and hope filled a Bedford, N.S., gym when a round of applause broke out for a young man who ran 30 kilometres in honour of his best friend.
“The whole event revolved around his legacy and the impact that he made not only to myself but everyone up here,” Alex Ryan said, after wrapping up hours running on a treadmill.
Ryan’s best friend, Kai Matthews, had just finished his first year at university when he contracted meningitis B and fought the infection for roughly 30 hours before he lost his battle on June 1.
Ever since he lost his son, Matthews has made it his mission to increase awareness about the common and deadly strain of meningitis that isn’t yet covered in Canada’s childhood vaccination schedule.
“Everyone we talked to about this since losing Kai did not know about meningitis B, we didn’t know about it ourselves and we’re vaccine savvy, we’ve done all the vaccines throughout our whole life, throughout the kid’s whole life,” he said.
Matthews joined Ryan on the final leg of his run during a full-day fundraiser that aimed to reduce the barriers many people may face in order to receive the meningitis B vaccine.
“Some people have to pay for it out of pocket, for some people, it’s out of reach for them, some students, they can’t afford it. It costs about $300 for two doses,” he said.
Ryan has logged countless kilometres on the open road following the death of his best friend to help him grieve his loss and brainstorm ways to prevent further tragedies from meningitis B.
“Whenever I just got, you know, in my head, I just got out and went for a run. And, then throughout the process, I was just trying to think of ways to make positive change,” he said.
His outlet ended up being the inspiration for a fundraiser he organized where he committed to running the same amount of kilometres as hours that Kai spent fighting the infection.
“Kai’s battle with meningitis from his first symptom, till he did lose his fight, was right around 30 hours long,” Ryan said.
Ryan expressed an immense amount of gratitude for the supporters who showed up to encourage him and donate to the B For Kai foundation.
The foundation was launched by Kai’s family and has already made a life-changing impact on the university community the young man was thrilled to be part of.
“Norrie’s been spending a bunch of time at Acadia. Through B for Kai, he actually just set a new guideline at Acadia that all the first-year students get the vaccine as part of their tuition,” Ryan said.
Norrie plans to continue investing his energy into raising funds and awareness about the meningitis B vaccine and hopes his journey through grieving helps others in need.
“Putting your love into something tangible and positive is what we’re doing and I hope everybody, if they have a similar struggle in their life, can find the power to do that, because it makes such a difference,” he said.
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