Like a true champion, Orpha Thrasher led over 20 people in the cold to complete her 100th walk Sunday a day before her 100th birthday.
She was smiling the whole time.
Her children, grandchildren, friends, along with Mayor Cam Guthrie, MPP Mike Schreiner and HOPE House’s executive director Jaya James all came to show support at Riverside Park as she completed her journey.
She only had one mission: to raise money for Guelphites, and as of Sunday her initiative helped raise over $22,000 for HOPE House.
“I can’t believe it,” said Orpha after completing her walk. “You don't wake up in the morning thinking, ‘I'd love to walk,' but with this in mind, I get out there and do it. And when I come back, I am actually energized enough to do things around the house.”
Orpha said she felt amazed by the support she received and the number of people who came in person to walk with her.
“With the pandemic, we've been so curtailed. We can't do what you want to do,” she said.
She began her walk in the fall by the bench in Riverside Park dedicated to her by her family last fall. The area holds a special place in her heart as it also has a plaque and tree commemorating her husband of nearly 65 years.
Since then, she’s taken walks between 2,000 to 6,000 steps almost every day in places like Riverside Park, Woodlawn cemetery and Guelph Lake. When temperatures dropped severely, she hopped on the treadmill and did numerous flights of stairs. Her journey was documented on the Facebook page Orpha's Journey to 100.
Orpha’s daughter and organizer of the walk, Shelley Thrasher, said family members took turns to walk with her. And those that were in different cities walked there to show support.
“Honestly, she has gotten healthier throughout this whole thing,” said Shelley.
“It's now attracting so many people because everyone shares the post. Yeah, so the last post got over 6,000 views. So that's gone everywhere. And now we look at the list of donors, about half of them we don't even know.”
Thrasher said she felt amazed by the support, especially that of nine-year-old Jasper Crealock-Marsh from Kitchener, who was inspired by her initiative when he first heard about it in September. The young boy launched his own 100 walks to complete before his 10th birthday, which coincidentally comes a day after Thrashers. As of Sunday, he was on his 98th walk.
“I said the fact that a boy his age is going through with it. I mean, most kids his age would say, 'oh yeah,' and forget about it,'” said Thrasher.
Together the soon-to-be 10 year old and soon-to-be 100 year old led the walk.
“All the time when I see homeless people, I’m so sad. I’m always like ‘mom, do you have a chocolate bar?’” said Jasper, who is urging supporters of his cause to donate to the House of Friendship in Kitchener.
James said seeing Orpha and Jasper walking together reminds her that you can always do something no matter where one is in life.
“I looked at Orpha, and she's turning 100, and I look at Jasper helping out in his community turning 10, and they're both doing great things in their own way. And I think that's so exciting to see that,” said James.