One local man is using his COVID-19 downtime to benefit others in the community.
Joey Payeur, an occasional teacher with both the Rainy River and Northwest Catholic District School Boards, is launching a fundraiser project he is calling “Step Forward.” The project is born both from a lifestyle change that he said is helping him get more active and healthy, as well as the time away from work he’s been facing due to COVID-19 and the province’s decision to suspend all publicly funded schools until the end of May at the earliest.
“Being an occasional teacher… I obviously do not having much going on work-wise as of right now with all schools being closed,” Payeur said.
“It occurred to me as I was out walking my dog, Dug, about two weeks ago that I have witnessed plenty of acts of kindness being done by people both locally and nationwide and that right now more than ever is a great opportunity for me, as well, to put others first and try and help out people in the district.”
The overall goal of the project is simple: Payeur is aiming to complete 12,000 steps a day, every day, for three months in order to raise money for three local organizations in the Rainy River District.
“I will be tracking my steps on my phone every day starting on May 30 -my mom’s birthday- and going all the way through the end of August,” he explained.
“I will publish screen shots of my steps for the day on my Facebook page every night at around 9 p.m. so that people can see my progress both for the day and for that month. My monthly goal is to walk 360,000 steps and if I can stick to it over three months, that means I will break the one-million-step mark before I’m finished.”
Payeur noted he generally takes his walks around the Memorial Sports Centre parking lot or down along the riverfront, though he is also looking at potentially going out to other communities in the district to log his steps, as the money raised won’t just be put to use for those in Fort Frances.
Each month of the project will raise money for a specific group in the Rainy River District, with the United Native Friendship Centre’s (UNFC) Food Bank being collected for during the month of June, Rainy River District Victim Services (RRDVS) benefitting in July and the Riverside Foundation for Health Care – Chemotherapy Unit being the recipient for August.
Payeur noted that each of the three organizations he’s selected to fundraise for benefit a wide part of the district, and are all organizations that have directly impacted him and his family at some point.
“[The UNFC Food Bank] is important to me personally because, as a teacher, I know many children who come to school hungry in the morning and how difficult that can make trying to learn anything,” Payeur said.
“Food is essential to all of us and I want to help families who are struggling to be able to have enough to eat. [RRDVS] is important to me personally because, before I was born, my mother was a victim of domestic abuse in her first marriage. I was fortunate she was strong enough to eventually escape that situation and eventually meet my father. Nobody should feel like they should have nowhere to turn when they have suffered at the hands of others and Rainy River District Victim Services is a key safe haven for people in this district to turn to when there seems like nowhere else to turn. ”
Payeur said the final recipient, the Riverside Foundation for Health Care – Chemotherapy Unit, has not only directly impacted his life, but the lives of many other people who have been touched by cancer in one form or another.
“I lost my sister to ovarian cancer, my father to colon cancer and my grandmother to pancreatic cancer and have also seen it claim the lives of great friends of mine,” he said.
“I believe every single one of us has had our lives touched by cancer, either being challenged by it ourselves or by having it affect a relative or friend. It can strike anyone at any age and it’s something that I want to do my part to help eliminate one day.”
In order to collect donations for each of the organizations during his “Step Forward” project, Payeur explained that he will have a donate button or link set up at his Facebook page. In addition, and in order to prove that he is committed to the project – that he is walking the walk, not just talking the talk – he will personally be donating the first $50 for each month.
“I understand that money can be tight at the best of times and, with the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, these are far from the best of times,” he said.
“I want to be very clear that if people can donate to one or more of the causes, even if it seems like a small amount, it is greatly appreciated by me and even more so by the people the money will help. And I also want to emphasize that if people cannot donate money and can only send messages of encouragement or a supportive honk from their vehicle if they see me out walking, those positive vibes mean the world to me, too.
All of the donations made by Payeur and other members of the public who wish to support the project will be collected through Payeur’s Facebook page. In addition to raising the money and walking for his own health, Payeur noted that he’s also hoping to inspire others to reach out and do something for others as well.
“I would also like to throw out a challenge to anyone who hears about ‘Step Forward’ to step forward yourself and do something to help out the local area,” he explained.
“Whether it’s volunteering or any other act of kindness that makes the Rainy River District a better place to live. If we all accept the challenge, think how much better a place we can make our world. It’s been proven countless times throughout history…one person CAN make a difference.”
Payeur also acknowledged that as much as he’s taking this project on to help others, it’s also a way for him to try and make amends for his own past actions.
“I have had too many times in my life where I put myself ahead of others,” he said.
“I can’t go back and change the mistakes I have made, as much as I wish I could. All I can do is try and be a better person from this point on. This is one small step towards doing that.”
“I’m the farthest thing from a hero for doing this,” he continued.
“The front-line workers during this unprecedented time in our world and all the people in our community who do their best to keep others safe and healthy are true heroes. They’re doing more than their share to make this world a better place. The least I can do is help that mission in some kind of way.”
Anyone wishing to keep track of Payeur’s progress or donate to his efforts is encouraged to visit his Facebook page.