‘Such perseverance at such a young age’: walking across Ontario in Whitby

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Whitby’s Ethan Brown used his quarantine to cross Ontario right here in Whitby.

At eight years old, Ethan decided to complete the Ontario portion of 5 Peaks Great Canadian Crossing Challenge by walking and biking the equivalent width of the province – a total of 1,091 km.

“He’s always been very active, but when quarantine hit it threw a wrinkle into all that,” said Ethan’s mother, Sarah Brown, noting with hockey and planned activities such as swimming and art lessons canceled after everything shut down in March 2020 the family had to find new activities.

“I started going for daily walks and eventually the kids decided they wanted to come along,” Brown recalls, noting she found a tracker online in the form of a shoe divided into 100 squares, and her two kids began tracking their distance by colouring the squares when they got home.

When she discovered the Great Canadian Crossing, which challenged participants to walk the equivalent distance of the country or any of the provinces before Canada Day 2021, Ethan was eager to take part. Beginning July 2, he began tracking his distance when walking or biking, and completed the Ontario challenge earlier this month.

“It worked out to just a bit more than 100 km a month,” Brown recalls. “We were amazed by it because he normally plays team sports so to see this child, who at the time was seven years old, saying ‘hey, want to go for a walk?’ was just awesome. To see him have such perseverance at such a young age to chip away at such a lofty goal when all my friends were saying ‘how do I get my kids outside?’, it was just great that he was active and wanted to be active.”

Brown said quarantine ended up having a silver lining for the family, who have spent a lot of time out exploring the trails and walking areas in their Williamsburg neighbourhood thanks to Ethan’s challenge.

“It was nice because it forced us outside too and it was a good opportunity to connect and have some meaningful conversations that might not have happened if we were at home in the house,” she said. “It really blossomed into a greater understanding and interest in what’s happening in and around our neighbourhood.”

“That became a motivating factor for him and it was great because he wanted to get outside to see if he could do better,” Brown said.