A fresh start

Five months ago, if you had told me I would commit to walking a million steps this summer, I would have had you committed – period.
On January 2, this former Times sports reporter was the shape of the main object in many of the sports he used to cover – round, but just without as much bounce.
I was 225 pounds, my waist was 44 inches and I did not like the person I had become, physically or otherwise.
Fast forward to today – because you can. I couldn’t fast forward, not if I was going to fix myself.
With the amazing guidance of another former (and he would tell you better looking) Times sports scribe, Mitch Calvert, I chipped away at my excessive frame, slowly trimmed and then eliminated the bad eating habits and learned that working out regularly isn’t something to avoid or fear, but something to embrace.
It was hard to put down the fast food and pick up the barbells – some days, exceptionally hard.
But to quote Jimmy Dugan, the cantankerous baseball manager played brilliantly by Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it The hard is what makes it great.”
By sticking with it thanks to the support of so many inspirational family members and friends and simply having the desire to be better than who I was, I head towards this weekend feeling better than I have in ages.
I’m down over 40 pounds and eight inches around the waist from where I started. More importantly, while I’ve shrank on the outside, I’ve grown on the inside. I’ve figured out that there’s a better way to treat people, myself included.
That also includes people less fortunate than me, which is why I’m so excited about Saturday’s official launch of the step counting portion of my summer-long fundraising project, Step Forward.
There have been so many people I’ve witnessed do their part to help others during these unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s my turn.
I’m honoured to get the opportunity to help out the United Native Friendship Centre Food Bank, Rainy River District Victim Services and the Riverside Foundation for Health Care-Chemotherapy Unit in the months to come.
I’ll be tracking my step counts, posting them daily on my Facebook page (where you can both donate to that month’s cause and post any good vibes and good music choices for me to listen to on my walks) and aiming to hit at least 12,000 steps every day.
When I do it for the next three months straight (when-not if), I’ll officially pass the one million step mark later in August.
That wouldn’t have seemed ambitious on Jan. 2 – it would have seemed insane. But now I know it’s something I can do and, to help others who can’t help themselves, it’s something I most certainly want to do.
I’ll be providing weekly updates here with how things are going, experiences I’ve had along my walking routes and maybe even a picture or two of what I see in my travels.
So grab your water bottle and come along for the journey.
One to a million. Let’s get this started.

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A fresh start?

International Falls city council is out to promote better co-operation with Fort Frances, forming a “Border Sister Cities Task Force” at its meeting Monday night.
While that’s a welcomed gesture, and something Fort Frances should join in on, one hopes this effort actually produces concrete results rather than just talk and goodwill.
After almost a century as cross-border neighbours, Fort Frances and International Falls formally signed a “twinning” agreement in September, 2002, complete with gushing accolades, optimism, and vows to work together on our common goals and obstacles.
Unfortunately, not a whole lot of action followed that initial enthusiasm. Sure, the two councils continued to challenge each other in smoosh races and slo-pitch games, but frankly, that does little to solve job losses in the paper industry, stem the out-migration of our youth, and attract new businesses.
Even Mayor Dan Onichuk admitted today that the follow-up did not occur after 2002, but vowed things would be different this time around. “This is a step, a giant step, towards ensuring that follow-up occurs,” he said.
Let’s hope so.
Mayor Onichuk said council will make a reciprocal gesture at its meeting this coming Monday night, with Falls city administrator Rod Otterness planning to address council at its June 27 meeting. Meanwhile, International Falls Mayor Shawn Mason is drawing up a formal invitation to council to join the new task force.
Working together, Fort Frances and International Falls are a much more formidable force when taking on issues with a higher level of government, such as the proposed passport requirement to enter the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2008.
It’s great to see such a willingness to improve co-operation between our two communities, especially given relations were so sour after the so-called border fish wars of the early 1990s. But while talking is better than not talking, talking for the sake of talking doesn’t accomplish much, either, without the results to show for it.