A Virtual Walk in COVID Times

By Daniel Huang, Sam Sarabia, Ioana Dobre, Co-chairs, Kingston Walk for Arthritis 2021

In 2017, Queen’s Class of 2018 alumna Molly Dushnicky organized the very first Kingston Walk for Arthritis, led by a group of Qmed students and faculty, community leaders, representatives from the Arthritis Society, and local businesses. The fundraiser was a major success, bringing together the Queen’s and Kingston communities, raising much needed funds for the Arthritis Society, and raising awareness for a disease that affects 1 in 6 Canadians.

The picture shows people of a variety of ages walking on Fort Henry Hill at the annual Walk for Arthritis in 2018. They are wearing Walk for Arthritis shirts.
Participants of the Kingston Walk for Arthritis 2018 at Fort Henry. This year, the walk will be held in a virtual format, with a variety of routes for participants to choose from to participate in a safe, physically-distanced fashion.

Since then, successive Qmed classes have taken up the task of organizing the Walk for Arthritis annually. Unfortunately, the 2020 Walk for Arthritis was cancelled, like many similar community events, due to the restrictions put in place across Ontario during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Given the importance of this cause, and taking inspiration from examples of successful virtual and socially-distanced fundraising events around the world–which have advanced such varied causes as producing PPE for frontline workers, collecting perishable food items for food banks, and hosting online arts and cultural events to support local artists–this year the organizing committee for the Walk for Arthritis endeavoured to transition to a completely virtual walk, to be held from April 23-25th, 2021.

This was a first for many members of our committee. Such basic tasks as finding participants, contacting local businesses, and reaching out to charitable and patient advocacy organizations needed a complete rethink. Like many other event organizers, we struggled with the basic question of how communities can come together in the middle of a pandemic that has uprooted many lives and restricted our ability to gather in person.

In the midst of these new challenges however, the continued resilience of our local community and the support we have had from classmates and the Queen’s faculty have truly been heartwarming. Though many are struggling, the message we received from local Kingston businesses was also loud and clear: they offered whatever they could and promised to stay connected once this pandemic is over. And, the virtual setting has provided new opportunities. Participants can walk from ‘virtually’ anywhere while maintaining a sense of camaraderie by getting involved with the walk’s virtual events, including raffle contests, and sharing photos and stories of loved ones who have faced this debilitating disease. It has truly become a virtual community.

Hopefully in future years we will return to the beautiful Fort Henry and walk together, in-person, like in years past. Until then, we will gather virtually to support our loved ones who suffer from arthritis and celebrate their strength and courage. As in years past, proceeds from our event will be donated to the Arthritis Society, in support of their efforts to sponsor cutting-edge research and patient advocacy programs to achieve better health outcomes for people affected by arthritis.

We look forward to seeing all of you on April 23-25th, 2021. For more information on how to participate, please visit our registration page at:

https://arthritis.ca/moveyourway/KingstonWalkforArthritis

And, follow us on social media for your chance to win 1 of 10 gift cards for floatation therapy provided by our main event sponsor, Rejuve-nation Wellness Experts:

Facebook event: https://fb.me/e/PEnEHvs4

Twitter: @KingstonWFA

Instagram: @KingstonWFA

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