Hannah Willey’s 100 Kilometres to #RaiseTheRate.

By Ali Schofield

Hannah Willey had been looking forward to this spring: she had signed up for the Calgary Marathon 10km & 5km and had been excited about the event. “I am not a natural runner so a race pushes me to challenge myself.”

But when physical distancing measures came into effect, her race was cancelled. As a busy mom of two, she began looking for a new way to safely stay active and set a positive example for her children. She soon discovered Pancreatic Cancer Canada’s Virtual Fundraising Fitness Challenge and it was a perfect fit: a goal she could set for herself and a way to honour her father, Colin, who she lost to the disease in 2017.

“Three years ago, I received a call from my mom in the UK. She was calling to say my father, who up to that moment had been healthy, had collapsed at home and was in the hospital.” Hannah’s family feared the worst, and a few days later their fears were confirmed: it was pancreatic cancer, and well advanced. “His prognosis was anywhere between 6 weeks and 6 months.” Hannah flew back to the U.K. as soon as she could and was able to visit with her father before he passed away only three weeks after he first felt symptoms.

“One of the things he taught me was if you can do something to help or make a change, do it,” she said. “I decided I would try and raise money to help improve the odds of people beating this cancer.”

“Pancreatic cancer doesn’t get the funding it deserves and needs so badly. It has one of the highest mortality rates and I would like to make whatever small contribution I can to help bring those numbers down.” 

When Hannah signed up for the Virtual Fundraising Fitness Challenge her goal was to run 50km in the month of April and raise $500 for pancreatic cancer research. When she accomplished her 50km milestone early, she set a new goal of running a total of 100km by May 3rd.

The Virtual Fundraising Fitness Challenge is a fun and flexible way to stay active while practicing physical distancing. As Hannah says, it doesn’t matter how big or small your challenge is. “At the moment the world is upside down, and there is no certainty of when physical distancing is going to end, so set a goal, however small, to achieve.”

“If me keeping active can also help others, that is a bonus. It gives me a focus, a reason to hit that treadmill or go out for a run in these times where it’s all too easy to hide away,” Hannah said. “Have something to work towards for yourself while helping others at the same time: it’s a win/win!”

The funds raised through the Virtual Fundraising Fitness Challenge are more important and impactful than ever. Each challenge will support the vital research and specialized services that Canadians impacted by pancreatic cancer rely on, especially during this particularly challenging time.

For more information on the Virtual Fundraising Fitness Challenge, or other ways you can #raisetherate of pancreatic cancer survival from home, click here. To support Hannah’s challenge, you can check out her personal fundraising page.