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Winnipeg man walking Coast to Coast for Cancer

Jackson Charron-Okerlund is on day 71 of trek, with no signs of slowing down

Jackson Charron-Okerlund hails from Winnipeg, but lately, he calls the entire country home. He’s on a mission to walk across Canada on a campaign he calls Coast to Coast for Cancer. So far, he’s raised over $40,000 for the cause.

“I still feel great,” Charron-Okerlund said when we caught up to him about 50 kilometres East of North Bay, just a little past Pimisi Lake. He left Mattawa this morning, and he covers around 50 kilometres a day on foot.

“It’s just kind of day by day, getting the steps in, putting in the time, and it's great because you visit new communities, so more people hear about why I’m out here, which is cancer research.”

Charron-Okerlund is 25, a kind, laid-back guy who started this journey alone when he flew to Newfoundland on March 6. For 40 days, he travelled solo, pushing a stroller full of supplies. “My mother didn’t sleep so well,” on the first leg of the trip, worried for her son on the road.

A little over a month in, his best friend Rob, took Charron-Okerlund’s 1985 VW van from storage and hit the road to help his friend on the journey. The two have been friends since elementary school, so the reunion in New Brunswick was a happy one. Plus, now Charron-Okerlund has a place to sleep at night other than beside the the road.

However, the people he has met have been so supportive, that he often gets a free motel room for the night or a nice meal to fuel his journey. “I was really well looked after,” he said, “and everyone’s really been responsive to the mission.”

“I’ve met thousands of people who have come to find me and share a story about someone they’ve lost too soon, or who are really struggling with the journey they had to go through with cancer.” Charron-Okerlund noted that he has fortunately not had any loved ones with cancer, but he walks for those who have battled the disease.

Before the long walk, Charron-Okerlund worked in health care, primarily helping the elderly. The job was rewarding – “they lived a different life than us” – and he enjoyed learning from the older generation.

He walked a lot to prepare, clocking in about 20 to 40 kilometers a day. Now, “the mileage is the same, but the scenery is different.”

Taking in the sights and meeting the people is a highlight for Charron-Okerlund. “We’re all here under Canada,” he said. “We’re all Canadian at the end of the day even though we’re from a different province. Everyone’s got the same spirit, the same friendliness. We’re just such an awesome country.”

Hearing him speak conjures images of Stompin’ Tom Connors, who did his own share of crisscrossing the country finding unity among the people. But Charron-Okerlund’s true inspiration for the mission stems from another legendary cross-country walker – Terry Fox.

It was no coincidence he began his journey at the Terry Fox Memorial statue in Newfoundland. The man wears an image of Fox on his shirt, and his strength propels him on his coast-to-coast tour. “Terry Fox had every excuse in the book to tell himself ‘I can’t do this,’” Charron-Okerlund said.

“But he didn’t listen to those voices, and he did it anyways. So now I’m out here just showing everyone what Terry was all about, showing people you can go beyond what you believe you can do.”

He concludes his trip on the Pacific coast, and he’s eager to see what the road delivers. So far, he’s dealt with snow, rain, “and hurricane winds,” but his spirit remains strong. When things get a little dark, he thinks of Terry Fox – “a Canadian hero” – and the next steps come a little easier.

To follow Charron-Okerlund’s journey, follow his Facebook page (it’s under his name) and he’s also on Instagram and TikTok. He often livestreams his walks so people can follow. He has about 40,000 TikTok followers.

To donate to his cause, head to and search for “Cross Canada Marathon for Cancer Research.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering civic and diversity issues for BayToday. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
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