Article by: SARAH BETTS
As Brian Jones and Steven Burns walked the final steps of their Long, Long Walk for Liberty Lane, they were joined by more than 70 people who welcomed them home.
It was a warm, sunny welcome that would see them surpass their $10,000 fundraising goal beyond what they expected. As of Saturday night, the initiative had raised $131,844.76.
The childhood best friends and local businessmen set out on a 274-kilometre walk from Edmundston to Fredericton – the equivalent of seven marathons – on June 10.
They crossed the purple finish line at the Boyce Farmers Market on Saturday morning – tired and sore, they said, but proud of each other.
Burns was choked up as he thanked family and friends for the support.
“Lots of memories made,” he said.
“It’s all about the awareness and if people are in a situation and they might need Liberty Lane’s help that they know that it’s there.”
Even with taped-up, blistered feet keeping them going, Jones said it was worth it.
“A lot of people hadn’t heard of Liberty Lane before this week and I’m hoping that a lot of people now know what Liberty Lane is and what it does, who it helps,” Jones said.
“We had some amazing notes from people who have used Liberty Line in the past, like make-you-wanna-cry notes – more than our feet.”
Liberty Lane is a charitable organization that tackles family violence. It has a building in Fredericton used to provide safe housing to women and their children who leave an abusive partner.
The final stretch
As they walked the final kilometre stretch from the Capital Exhibit Centre to the Boyce Farmers Market, a crowd formed to join them, decked out in the colour purple to support the cause.
Fellow walkers included the top fundraisers from Go-Go Gymnastics, which raised over $12,000, Fredericton South MLA David Coon, and friends and family. Cars driving along Smythe and Brunswick Streets honked and hollered congratulations as Jones and Burns pushed through the last few steps.
Burns could only react one way when he saw the supporters in tow: “Holy crap.”
They pushed on, catching up on the week with their children and pausing for the odd photo-op. They grinned through aches and pains. Burns put his arm around Jones’ shoulders as they approached the market, finishing their long walk to the sound of cheers, bombarded by hugs and high fives.
They thanked each other and poked fun at the bumps in the road, but Burns said the volunteers who worked while they were on the road made it a success.
At the end of it all, Jones said, the money raised is important, but it goes beyond that.
“Our objective was to bring everybody together,” he said.
“If we all work together, we can accomplish just about anything.”