This photo, went viral due to the kindness it demonstrated. (Photo by Andrea Abric)
Reservist Corporal Cameron Russell and Patsy Turner met again after finishing the Krista Johnson Memorial “Run For Change” on June 11.(Photo by Patricia Leboeuf)
Act of kindness at memorial run goes viral
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2016
When 61-year-old Patsy Turner and Reservist Corporal Cameron Russell crossed the finish line at the annual Krista Johnson Memorial “Run For Change”, they did so holding hands.
Complete strangers at the beginning of the race, they quickly paired up, keeping each other company during the long, rainy trek. They held true to the vow that they would finish together, and did so. This would have gone unnoticed if not for a few photographs that went viral.
The photos could seem unusual at first glance, a 23-year-old soldier carrying a 50-pound rucksack accompanying a woman using a walker who suffers with angina and heart nodules. It touched so many people who saw a kind act captured on film. In just a few days, it has received countless shares and likes on Facebook.
While Russell appreciates that people acknowledged his act, he feels that the small kindness he demonstrated wasn’t worthy of such widespread attention - he just considers himself an average guy doing something he found fun. “People are looking at it like it is a massive deal,” said Russell. “Don’t get me wrong, it is great that people can appreciate kindness...I just wish that it was common enough that we wouldn’t consider it that.”
He did not set out to escort anybody. He also originally wanted to do the half marathon on June 11. It was going to be a solo act, just him and his rucksack. Then he and Turner spotted each other, exchanged greetings, and decided to simply do the next 10 km together.
Though Russell was initially concerned about his partner’s health, she was determined to complete it, and he respected that inner strength. Even as they were soaked by the rain, they were determined that both would finish. Though they came in last and just a handful of people were left at the finish line, they crossed it proudly.
Walking with Russell felt strangely familiar, admitted Turner. Her two cousins are in the military, and so was her late brother. “It felt like I was walking with my brother,” she said. “I still can’t believe that with that big backpack (Cameron) helped me up,” Turner added with tears in her eyes, her voice shaking with emotion.
Their story has touched many people, including Andrea Abric, the photographer behind the photos.
At the race, she supplied all the water for the stations, running back and forth to ensure participants were hydrated. When she was given notice that the pair were finishing last, she stayed behind to make sure they had water. As they appeared in the distance, their touching partnership brought her to tears and she took several pictures, later posting them on social media. She did not expect much to come from it, particularly not such a positive response from so many. Yet it isn’t the fame garnered by these photographs that touched her so deeply, but the friendship that was forged. “They are friends for life,” said Abric. “I am so glad that I was there.”
All three gathered together once more on June 16 so Russell could receive a Splash Auto Care car detailing package. It had been donated by Splash co-owner Jack Lapierre since he was so inspired by the young soldier’s actions. The gift is part of a kindness movement named Think of Others (TOO). According to Lapierre, the movement quickly became popular with family, friends and coworkers, and the donation is an aspect of it.
Though honoured, Russell couldn’t accept the gift, or any other recompense. Lapierre decided to donate it to the Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN) in Russell’s name. “If the spirit of this whole thing is to be kind, and give to the next guy, then this is the way it should be,” Russell said.
The Krista Johnson Memorial Fund was established to honour its namesake after she died in cycling accident. For the past four years, organizers have been holding the memorial “Run For Change” event with a with 2 km, 5 km, 10 km and a half marathon run for attendees to choose from.