Edmonton firefighter Jeff Readman walked his third Rucksack March this year in honour of his best friend, Darren Anderson, a Strathcona County firefighter who died by suicide in September 2018.
Readman is one of more than 80 Edmontonians who took part in this year’s Rucksack March for Remembrance on Saturday, raising funds for veterans and first responders.
“A firefighter competition is how we met and then our friendship grew from there,” Readman said of Anderson.
“He was a super, super good guy. He inspired lots and cared about people. People looked up to him, as a competitor, or a coworker, or a friend.”
The Rucksack March for Remembrance, a 22-kilometre walk with participants across the country carrying a pack weighing 22 kilograms in support of Wounded Warriors Canada, was held locally in Rundle Park.
Readman said a week before Anderson died, they were at a competition together in Calgary and had been planning for the future, talking about doing more competitions.
“I have a picture there from the week before he passed with a big smile on his face,” Readman said. “As close as we were you never know what people are going through. It really resonated with me and this just seemed like a good way to pay tribute to him.”
For Readman, the march can also be an opportunity to bond with other participants.
“It’s not a race, everybody starts together and you get some stragglers or groups split up a little bit but it’s also to bring people together,” he said.
“You meet different people and everybody kind of asks why are you here? What inspired you? It took me five and a half hours last year I think; it was it’s a good opportunity to kind of chat and talk with different people.”
So far, Readman has raised more than $3,600 on his own, while the Edmonton fundraising goal is $25,000.
Canada-wide, the fifth annual event has a goal of raising $100,000 which will support veteran and first responder families across the country with all donations go directly to the Wounded Warriors Canada foundation.