Walk 4 Water campaign lands at Ponoka Elementary School

Walking for 300 kilometres is no easy feat but doing that without legs is an even bigger challenge.

Walking for water: Double amputee Spencer West speaks with students at Ponoka Elementary School May 9 about his 300-kilometre walk and fundraiser.

Walking for water: Double amputee Spencer West speaks with students at Ponoka Elementary School May 9 about his 300-kilometre walk and fundraiser.

Walking for 300 kilometres is no easy feat but doing that without legs is an even bigger challenge.

Spenser West, 31, is a motivational speaker for Me to We who lost his legs to sacral agenesis, a congenital disorder that causes abnormal fetal development of the lower spine. He had surgery at the age of two and removed his legs up to his knees in the hopes he could use prosthetics but when that failed his legs were removed just below his hips at the age of five.

West, along with an entourage, came to Ponoka Elementary School (PES) May 9 to speak about We Walk 4Water, a campaign with Free the Children to raise enough water for 100,000 people. From May 6 to 16 Spencer is to walk from Edmonton to Calgary making stops along the way to speak about his campaign.

West has also walked with his two best friends, David Johnson and Alex Meers, to raise more than $500,000 in a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. He credits his parents for helping him want to help others despite his condition. “Volunteering was sort of instilled in taking care of others from the beginning.”

“My generation and the generation after me, we’re being labelled ethical enthusiasts. We’re no longer looking for a job that pays well but we’re looking for a job that pays well and makes the world a better place,” added West.

“Having material possessions wasn’t fulfilling to me. I wanted to give back in some way.”

The climb up Mount Kilimanjaro challenged not only his physical ability but also his mental stamina. Both Meers and Johnson suffered from altitude sickness and this was the one time West found himself wishing for legs.

“The whole goal of our climb was to prove that anybody can make a difference.”

His parents were told he would never be able to function normally in society but West has been able to take part in many school activities. He suggests people don’t have to climb a mountain but some can make a difference locally.

Albertans have shown an overwhelming amount of support to their campaign, explained West. Motorists have stopped West and his crew to donate funds to their cause.

“We had a little kid riding a bike, chase after the Winnebago to give us $5,” he said. “It’s been beautifully overwhelming.”

Schools they have visited have conducted their own water walks for the campaign as well.

Dominic Mencini, Grade 5, was impressed with West and the We Walk 4Water fundraiser. “It’s really cool he’s coming here just to have someone inspirational.”

Another Grade 5 student, Madison Hansen, looked forward to meeting West. “He must be really strong because he lost his legs and he’s still walking and raising money.”

Julie Thomas, public relations manager for Free the Children said the work can be tiring but West’s walks are inspiring. “Spenser walks and wheels 25 to 30 kilometres a day. We can’t complain.”

Students were asked to save their change over the course of a few days for West’s campaign and they raised more than $900 for We Walk 4Water.