It seems like ages ago that Zach crossed the finish line in Ottawa – but his story is over yet. This past week, some amazing things have happened, but let me tell you a little story first.

It’s been a big year. Capitol B.I.G. As many of you know, Zach started dreaming of this adventure 3 years ago. He had participated in a Terry Fox run at school and read a book about Anna-Leise Carr’s epic swim across Lake Ontario. He told us he thought he could help kids too – and wanted to run across Canada to do it. We thought it was just a flash-in-the-pan idea and didn’t give it much credit.

Zach was persistent. He kept asking and asking how he could help kids. We talked about ways we could volunteer but he kept referring back to his idea of ‘running across Canada’. He sat down and wrote a letter to our (almost elected at the time) PM Justin Trudeau, telling him what he wanted to do and asking for help. When Zach’s step-dad Derek and I realized he wasn’t backing down, and one of his teachers gently asked why we kept saying ‘no’, we changed our minds. Fast forward to this year. With a few changes to the itinerary – ‘Zach Makes Tracks’ was born.

It’s been a flurry of activity since last October – and it felt really good. We met some incredible people and some amazing sponsors who jumped right on board to help us make this happen (did you see the RV donated by The Hitch House and wrapped by Auto Trim?! And all those gorgeous branded clothes from Cyncor?). Wow. This was a new arena to us – and we were learning a LOT about our community’s generosity. We talked about youth mental health and what it meant to us and how Zach wanted to show kids that it was important to reach out when you’re struggling. Zach had seen me (mom) and some friends go though some really difficult mental health crises. He just wanted to help.

As we were getting close to launch day, we asked Zach what he wanted at the finish line, on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa. Something JUST for him – to commemorate his hard work, the struggles, the victories, the long days, the fun. Zach said he wanted two things: a ribbon to run though (like they do in marathons) and; a Big Mac from McDonalds.

And that’s exactly what he got. There was a giant group of people – friends, family and strangers cheering “Go Zach Go” as he turned and ran towards the Peace Tower. Most of us had tears in our eyes. He ran across the finish line ribbon that his Beppe, Grandpa and Stew were holding and then chowed down on a Big Mac that Taylor Clark had brought especially for him – and he said it tasted sooooo good!

It’s so incredible that Barrie area McDonald’s owners Jennifer and Jason O’Neill and Glenn McKee, along with their families and teams at each McDonald’s location, are recognizing the significance of that moment for Zach. We are so honoured that they want to help Zach spread the word about the importance of youth mental health. Thank you to Jennifer, Jason and Glenn for creating Big Macs For Zach Day – it’s going to be the ‘best day ever’. Zach’s entire family is so grateful for the support you are showing him. The funds he is raising will go far to make the new Child & Youth Mental Health Unit at RVH what it needs to be for our kids.

It just keeps getting better. This week, local resident Angela Baldwin has generously pledged to match every gift made to Zach Makes Tracks between now and December 15, to a maximum of $10,000. This truly is an incredible community – and we can’t say thank you enough to Angela and her family for helping push Zach towards his $100,000 goal.

Zach had a dream. He made it come true. He learned a lot about himself – and struggled quite a bit through some of it. But he put himself out there and taught us, as parents, a lot about what kids can accomplish. This mom couldn’t be more proud.

Zach’s original letter to Justin Trudeau written more than two years ago.

Zach and Angela Baldwin at RVH, announcing her family’s pledge to match donations made to Zach Makes Tracks.

Zach and his hero – Anna-Leise Carr who was able to attend Zach’s Send-Off Day!