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Greater Sudbury residents hike for a hero

Up to 1,500 Greater Sudbury residents put aside their personal beliefs on the war in Afghanistan and hiked Sunday, Oct. 4, in support of Cpl. Bill Kerr and his family.
Corporal Bill Kerr is pictured with his wife Tracy, and daughters Zoe and Abigail, as he addresses the attendees who came to the Hike for a Hero Oct. 4, 2009. Photo by Bill Bradley.

Up to 1,500 Greater Sudbury residents put aside their personal beliefs on the war in Afghanistan and hiked Sunday, Oct. 4, in support of Cpl. Bill Kerr and his family.

The Hike For A Hero fundraiser, held at Highway 69 South at the new four lane 20 km section, was attended by municipal, provincial and federal politicians, military personnel and hundreds of Greater Sudbury residents. The event began with a number of speeches by dignitaries and continued with a variety of hikes, runs and bike treks. The event was billed as the first of its kind in Canada for a wounded veteran.

Hike For A Hero was held to raise money for a trust fund to provide an accessible house for the wounded veteran and his family. Kerr is a local resident and member of the Irish Regiment of Canada. Last fall, while on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan he was critically wounded Oct. 15 while on foot patrol. He is a triple amputee, having lost both his legs and left arm.

“We came out for our hero, Cpl. Bill Kerr,” said Sandra Armstrong. She attended with her friends Judy Blanchard and Janice Bowerman. “I know a friend of his who knows him well. That is why we are here today.”

“Bill Kerr has done a lot for this country. This is the least we could do for him,” said Carl Liu, a mechanical designer with SER Hydraulics. He hiked with his friend Jiayan Wang.

Chanda Grylls-Mahaffy said she worked with Kerr at Kelsey's Restaurant in 2001.

“We bar tended together. Bill was a funny guy, easy to get along with. He had a great sense of humour. That is why I am here.”

Nickel Belt MP Claude Gravelle said he was surprised by the number of people who participated.

“It shows the heart of our community. It does not matter what side you are on regarding the war. This event is all about supporting our soldiers,” said Gravelle.

Sudbury MP Glenn Thibeault agreed.

“What a fantastic event. This is truly what our community is all about. I saw this with my work at the United Way. People are coming out here to support Bill, even if they don't support the war,” Thibeault said.

Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau hiked with Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino and Ward 7 Coun. Russ Thompson.

“The real story here is how fortunate we are to have these guys like Bill Kerr perform the work they do,” said Barbeau.

Mayor John Rodriguez reminded the crowd that the city had been rated as the fourth most caring out of 4,700 communities in Canada, according to a survey in Maclean's Magazine last year.

“You are here in such large numbers because you care about each other. Bill signed up for whatever our federal parliament sent him to do. He represents us. He put his life on the line for us,” said Rodriguez.

Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci said it is important to remember people like Cpl. Bill Kerr.

“We celebrate Bill, that he cared enough for his country to fight for his country. Thanks Bill,” said Bartolucci.

Residents and businesses rally to raise money for accessible home

Though organizers did not confirm how much money had been raised at the event, a number of cheques were presented to Kerr Sunday by General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces. A cheque of $10,000 was donated by Shawn Francis, CEO of Medcan from True Patriot Love Foundation, supported by Canadian business chief executives.

“It was their first donation,” said Major Cindy Tessier, public affairs officer to the Chief of Defence Staff.

Another donation of $1,500 was presented to Kerr by Natynczyk from his Royal Military College class of 1979.

“I was telling a number of my old classmates where I was going and they decided to pass the hat,” said Natynczyk. “After hearing Cpl. Kerr's stories about his work in Afghanistan I have been mentioning him across the country. I see Canadians across the country are donating to his website.”

The general cautioned the crowd to support the current war effort.

“The defence of Canada begins not just over the next hill. It begins thousands of kilometres away in Afghanistan.”

Support for Kerr and his family has come from local businesses. Kelly Lake Building Supplies has donated $25,000 worth of building supplies for Kerr's new home. Dalron Homes has stated it will build the house at cost.

For his part, Kerr seemed overwhelmed by the crowds and dignitaries supporting him. He said he was not the hero he was being made out to be.

“The real heroes are the ones getting ready now to go to Afghanistan,” he said.

Barbeau noted Kerr's statements.

“Bill is a humble guy. I think it will take him days before he realizes the magnitude of this day,” said Barbeau, with a smile.

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