D-Day veteran Jim Parks sends a message with 1500m walk
After surviving the Second World War, unsavoury weather conditions weren't going to stop Jim Parks from walking with purpose.
The 96-year-old participated in The Virtual Remembrance Day Races, to raise funds and awareness for the Juno Beach Centre (JBC) in France, a museum that honours Canadians' sacrifice on D-Day.
The JBC relies heavily on tourism, but it's been a tough year with significantly fewer visitors because of the pandemic.
When Parks was 19, he landed as a rifleman in the first group of troops on D-Day. After the battle of Normandy, more than 5,000 soldiers died.
Recently, he shared his remarkable story of survival and spoke about his experiences in battles in France, Belgium and the Netherlands while serving overseas.
But for Parks, the walk isn't just about raising money; it's about sending a message.
"It's very important that people know what they have here wasn't for free," said Parks. "A lot of lives were taken, a lot of efforts. Not only on the water or at the front, but at home as well."
Alexander Fitzgerald-Black, with the Juno Beach Association, said it's remarkable to see people like Parks help the cause, especially with the circumstances.
"We were hoping to get 90,000 visitors this year," said Fitzgerald-Black. "Now we're lucky if we get a third of that. That's a lot of our revenue gone."
Fitzgerald-Black said it's important for this centre to keep going, representing what Canadians did in the Second World War, and what Canada represents now.
Donations keep it alive.
Cathy Morton is the Mount Albert Legion president and said she couldn't be prouder to be a part of it.
Morton said when others see everything that people like Parks have given up, it makes every bit of support that much more impactful.
"To keep the memory going of what our family did, our parents, in many instances, grandparents to give us what we have today," she said.
The event will be held virtually and is open for registration until Nov. 28.
Participants can run or walk anytime between now and Nov. 28, with $10 from each entry to support the JBC.
To support or register for the Remembrance Day Races, click here.