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Run the Rock moves grand opening from St. John’s to Stephenville

Carter Macneil (left), a 9-year-old cancer survivor and Wish Ambassador and his mom, Stephanie, greet runners from the HMCS St. John’s Run the Rock. – @ Jaymie L. White

By JAYMIE L. WHITE

Special to The Appalachian

STEPHENVILLE – For 25 years, the Run the Rock crew of the HMCS St. John’s have been making an annual run of over 900 kilometers across the island of Newfoundland to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. They have a goal this year of $85,000, and over the last 25 years they have raised over one million dollars to the foundation.

The run normally kicks off and finishes in St. John’s, but this year the crew decided to do things a little differently. For the first time their opening ceremonies took place in Stephenville.

Alyssa Shaw, Development Coordinator for Make-a-Wish Foundation, said she is trying to make positive changes to the event.

“Normally we have our opening and closing ceremonies in St. John’s,” said Shaw. “Me, being new to the organization, I am trying to go with the times and sort of change the event for the better and so I really wanted to get the West Coast involved, and to have it in Stephenville was a no-brainer because of Carter and his connection with the crew.”

Carter Macneil, a 9-year-old cancer survivor from Stephenville, is the Wish Ambassador for Run the Rock, and in 2017 was a recipient of a wish from the Make-a-Wish foundation. He got the opportunity to go to Disneyland, Legoland, and Universal Studios.

“I was happy to just get outside of the country and go to a different place instead of being at the hospital. It was nice to get my wish and I hope everyone else’s wish comes true because it is just really hard to go through cancer,” said Macneil.

He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at two years old and was in remission three years later. He will officially be cancer free in one year.

The opening ceremonies took place on Monday, Aug. 16 at the town council offices and began with a welcome address from Alyssa Shaw and Stephenville mayor Tom Rose. Rose presented the Run the Rock crew with a $250 donation on behalf of the town of Stephenville.

“For all you do – you serve our country, put on the uniform to defend our rights, our freedoms, and our sovereignty that we have here in Newfoundland and in Canada. We are very proud of you and everything you do,” said Rose.

Then Carter took to the podium to tell the crowd about his experience with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and to thank the Run the Rock crew.

“I want to say a special thank you to everyone that showed up here and everyone who is helping with Run the Rock. Good luck and I hope you run well,” said Macneil.

He was then presented with a bag of surprises from the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and Sailor First Cass Mikie Thoms gave him an official jacket to match the Run the Rock crew of 2021. Mayor Rose also had a surprise for Macneil, a Stephenville cup filled with ice cream certificates. The ceremonies ended with Macneil presenting Make-a-Wish hats to the entire crew of the HMCS St. John’s.

Councilor Maurice Hynes presented the runners with a cheque for $250 on behalf of the Royal Canadian Legion. Macneil had raised funds along with his family and also donated an additional $810.

Mayor Rose hopes to host the opening ceremonies again in the future.

“I am very proud that they selected Stephenville,” said Rose. “Like I said to Alyssa, our door is always open, and we’d love to host it every year.”

Shaw agreed and had great things to say about everyone involved.

“I think it went amazing and went off without a hitch. I want to thank the Town of Stephenville, Mayor Tom Rose, and their rec coordinator Marissa. They were fantastic,” said Shaw. “That’s when I knew in my heart that I made the right decision. It was a hard decision to take a 25-year run of the opening ceremonies being in St. John’s and changing it, so we were on pins and needles about that, but I can’t say enough good things about the town of Stephenville and all the support we received. The opening ceremonies were fantastic, and I’m sure we will be back next year as well.”

The closing ceremonies for this year’s Run the Rock will take place in St. John’s on Friday, Aug. 27, and any donations can be made at: http://www.makeawish.ca/runtherock.

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