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Run the Rock beginning annual fundraising relay July 23 from Port aux Basques

PORT AUX BASQUES, N.L — Master Corporal Keya Kelly is excited to participate in the 23rd annual Run the Rock Event for her second year in a row.

“Meeting the wish kids and seeing the smiles on their faces,” is the highlight of the event for Kelly that makes all the training and all the running worth it.

Kelly spoke with The Gulf News from a port in Dublin, Ireland.

Her ship, the HCMS St. John’s, will soon be heading back to its home port of St. John’s. The Canadian navy frigate is coming to the tail end of a six-month deployment on a NATO training mission called Operation Reassurance.

Kelly is part of a 14-member team running from Port aux Basques to St. John’s, 900 kilometers, in two weeks, starting July 23. The team has been training while on board the ship for the past three months.

“Our physical support advisor made up a 10-kilometre training program and all members of the team are following that,” Kelly explained. “We have two treadmills and we run on the top of the ship, where 16 laps of our track equals one kilometre. We do individual training and some team training.”

Kelly admits that the crew’s busy work schedule makes finding time for daily training a challenge, but says the runners are managing to squeeze their training regimen in too.

The run across the island is organized as a relay.

A team of five runners will tackle one leg of the journey each day.

Each runner will do a five kilometer stretch, then rest in the van until the rotation cycles back for another turn. Their average running speed is about 10 kilometers an hour.

“Some days are more challenging than others,” Kelly said. “The ship goes into Woody Point, so going through the National Park of Gros Morne, with all the terrain is a challenge, but it’s very beautiful.”

While part of the team is running, other team members zip ahead in another van to attend Legions, Lion’s Clubs and other venues and events organized by Children’s Wish Foundation Chapters. Team members also get to meet Wish Kids along the route as well.

“It’s amazing,” Kelly said. “It’s pretty much what fuels the team. It’s meeting the kids. They are so precious and always have a really great zest for life. And meeting them alone is really why we volunteer again.”

Another return runner, Master Seaman Frankie Gosse, originally from Whitbourne, N.L. will start the run off in Port Aux Basques on Monday, July 23. Gosse and his teammates have been fundraising onboard the ship, organizing events such as Chase the Ace. So far HMCS St. John's has raised enough money to grant one child’s wish.

Since 1995 Run The Rock fundraised close to a million dollars. Last year’s event brought in $110,000, granting 11 wishes and this year’s team members hope to exceed that amount this year.

Kelly says the event is of such importance to her teammates, they are willing to sacrifice seeing their own families for the first two weeks of their leave.

“Our ship is coming to the tail end of a six-month overseas deployment,” Kelly said. “So we’ve all been away from our families for a period of time, but the group of 16 people that were chosen to do this run, it’s just as important for us to do this run and raise these funds as it is to get home to see our own family members. It’s important for us to give back to the community.”

Marine Atlantic has agreed to match funds raised by Run The Rock in the Port aux Basques area to a maximum of $3,000.

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