North Vancouver teenager Michael Lam-Smith often thinks about the little ways his life would be different if his Uncle Wayne was around.
Wayne Lam was just 19 years old when he died of an aneurysm. He was doing some vacation work at the post office over the Christmas holidays when his head started to feel funny and he lay down to take a rest.
“By the time they knew something was really wrong with him, it was too late,” said Lam-Smith.
Born in 1965, Wayne died in 1984. His nephew Michael never met him, knowing him only through the words of his mother, as well as a memorial plaque set in a field in Vancouver.
“I often wonder what he would have been like as a person and who he could have become, the family he could have had,” said Lam-Smith. “My mom has always said he was the healthiest person that she knew and that he was very thoughtful. He would go grocery shopping for my grandma when she asked him. He was quiet, kind and responsible. … He sounded like a really nice person, I just wish I could meet him.”
Preventing others from feeling the pain of similar losses is one of the main inspirations behind a massive school project Lam-Smith has undertaken along with his Grade 11 Carson Graham classmates Cohen Weston and Owen Ostler. The project started as a very ambiguous assignment at the start of the school year.
“We had to do a community service project – everyone in our class had to do one,” said Weston. “It can be anything you want. It can be small, it can be big. We chose to go big.”
After months of planning they landed on a name – the BC Bolt – and a plan: they would run a month-long fundraising campaign encouraging people to stay active and collect donations for charity. They landed on the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada as their charity of choice, as they all knew someone like Uncle Wayne whose life had been cut short by heart disease or stroke.
The plan was to enlist as many people as possible to log kilometres walking, running or hiking, with the goal of reaching 21,000 cumulative kilometres – representing the year 2021 – by the end of June. Anyone could sign up and take part, and all were encouraged to collect donations or make their own monetary contributions. Prizes and challenges were also offered for anyone who started logging kilometres.
The campaign finally kicked off at the start of June, and the trio quickly blasted past their fundraising goal of $10,000. They’ve since bumped their goal up to $15,000, and as of June 17 were less than $500 away from hitting that mark. The project, however, is about much more than just raising money, the three organizers said. The best part is seeing their friends and family members getting outside and getting active, said Weston, adding that regular exercise is one of the best weapons we have in combatting heart disease and stroke.
“That was an inspiration for getting friends and family out there just walking, running, hiking, getting regular exercise and having a good time outside,” he said.
“We sort of came up with the idea during COVID because there wasn't much activity going on and everyone was kind of leading a sedentary lifestyle, with lockdowns and everything,” added Lam-Smith. “We just kind of wanted to get everyone back into the routine of being active and try to build some healthy habits.”
Ostler has been particularly active during the pandemic. In August 2020 he completed a solo marathon – lap after lap around the track at Fen Burdett Stadium – to raise money for the critical care unit at Lions Gate Hospital. He did another marathon earlier this month to add some kilometres to the BC Bolt cumulative total, and he’s itching to do more.
“I was hoping to do a marathon every week, but my doctor said it’s not the best idea for the body,” he said with a laugh. He’s been motivated by seeing other people in his life hit the streets to join the campaign. “What inspires me the most is seeing everyone starting to make those changes, like seeing people who wouldn't usually before go out for walks or go for hikes – seeing those people out and active is amazing.”
Visit the BC Bolt website for more information about the campaign, to make a donation, or to register yourself to help reach the cumulative kilometre total.