With Global Running Day and Tom Longboat Day, two important running days for many runners across the province, one particular runner has used running to raise awareness.
As a Wellness Warrior for the Indigenous Sport and Wellness Ontario (ISWO), Matthew Joel Kennedy is well known as a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames and Bear Clan. He grew up in London and has worked at N’Amerind Friendship Centre for 10 years. In October 2015, he decided to take control of his health losing over 115lbs and finishing his first marathon within three years. He is an avid runner starting from doing the couch-to-5k program and believes that running is for everyone.
But his reaction to the uncovered remains of 215 children in Kamloops, B.C., prompted him to use running as a way to raise more awareness last Sunday, with a post to Facebook.
“Motivated to run 21.5km today for the 215 Indigenous children they discovered in a mass grave at the former site of the Residential School in Kamloops, BC.,” wrote Kennedy. “I wanted to raise awareness as this is something that requires real action.”
As a father of two children, he wrote, he acknowledged that his children would have been the same ages as some of the 215.
“It saddens me to know this is a reality and part of the real history Indigenous people endured.
I have been learning about Residential Schools on my own since I was 24. It was not taught to me in school and my family never talked about it, even though people from my family went to these places (Mohawk Institute & Mt. Elgin). I encourage you to learn the true history as it is something others want to forget.”
“Just as some perspective, my grandmother was a [residential school survivor]. There are now five generations that came after her, me being within the second and my children the third. There are over 70 people that come from her bloodline, not including her siblings, their families and generations before her. So when you think about the countless children who didn’t make it home like the 215 they recently discovered, you begin to have an understanding on how it truly impacted us,” he wrote, garnering over 150 reactions to his post.
In terms of becoming a Wellness Warrior, the ISWO website quoted Kennedy saying that he focuses on making healthy choices, like running.
“I work on making healthy choices daily while maintaining a training schedule of running three times a week as well playing volleyball,” said Kennedy. “I found that sharing my journey keeps me motivated and I try to do so when I have the opportunity. The message I try to share is ‘if I can change my lifestyle anyone can’.”
“In April 2016 I created the Indigenous Running Club out of N’Amerind Friendship Centre to offer a club for Indigenous people to come together to train. The group goes from the beginning of April until the end of October each year. To date we have had three members complete their very first marathon, eight complete their first half marathon and many finish their first 10k & 5K distance,” he explained.
In July of 2018, the club was featured on CBC and the group has remained active since.