Four years ago, Sandra McArthur’s second son Quinnton committed suicide.
In her time of healing and coping with the loss, she wanted to honour his legacy while also raising awareness on suicide prevention, mental health, and, above all, community compassion.
As a way to get her message out there, McArthur has decided to endure a walk along the Highway of Tears and across B.C.’s north central interior that started in Prince Rupert yesterday (May 12) and is expected to end in Kamloops on June 21.
That’s over 1,200 km of distance she’ll be covering in a span of roughly five weeks, known as the Community Compassion Walk (CCWalk).
She says the inspiration to honour her son this way came from a similar walk she did last year.
“When the opportunity to join the West walkers team, who were walking from Regina, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2018, ‘Hope in the Darkness,’ Walk for Youth Mental Health,” McArthur explains in her website biography. “The first key message came to me, prior to the walk where I spent many months on the theme ‘Start Talking and Keep Talking,’ the added theme came to me on the walk to Winnipeg ‘Walking the Talk.’”
The ‘start talking and keep talking’ philosophy stems from what McArthur believes the modern world has become with its ways of communication, hoping each B.C. city and town would consider adding a healing centre where people can talk and have a safe place to go.
“We have become a technological society. We look at our phones more than we look around us. We send love and prayers to those around the world, when the ones who need it are sitting right in front of us. There has been much grief, stemming from unnatural deaths in this [Highway 16] corridor. Many people have been victimized along the Highway and like the walkers before me, I want to continue to spread compassion and healing.”
According to Dan Martel, Sandra’s husband, the plan is to complete the Highway of Tears in Prince George, expected to arrive in the city on June 2, then continuing south on Highway 97 to Cache Creek, then travel along Highway 1 due east to finish in Kamloops.
“It’s all about cultivating hope for the future,” Martel tells Glacier Media. “Along the way, she’ll be making presentations to the public and we have places in almost every community we’re coordinating with to help set those up. Other individuals will join her for the walk for a short distance, but she is the main person doing the entire walk and her hope to bring people together on this issue that’s dear to her heart.”
McArthur’s family started the CCWalk with her in Prince Rupert; some are following her in a guided van along the journey.