MODERN LIVING

This is a picture of $4,500,000 on the march

They march in the springtime. They march in the fall. Teenagers march to pop tunes and veterans march in kilts. By the end of the year, 400,000 will have marched for $4,500,000

DOUGLAS MARSHALL August 1 1969
MODERN LIVING

This is a picture of $4,500,000 on the march

They march in the springtime. They march in the fall. Teenagers march to pop tunes and veterans march in kilts. By the end of the year, 400,000 will have marched for $4,500,000

DOUGLAS MARSHALL August 1 1969

This is a picture of $4,500,000 on the march

They march in the springtime. They march in the fall. Teenagers march to pop tunes and veterans march in kilts. By the end of the year, 400,000 will have marched for $4,500,000

DOUGLAS MARSHALL

FROM THE AIR the Miles For Millions march out of Brampton must have looked like a mass evacuation, hauntingly evocative of Poland or Belgium 30 years ago. Certainly it was a strange spectacle to spot in Canada early on a warm peaceful Saturday in May 1969. Perhaps some fool had finally pushed the nuclear button and that was why the people of this small and perfectly Ontario city just west of Toronto seemed to be fleeing with nothing but the skimpy clothes on their backs. By midmorning a column of apparent refugees, 5,500 strong and 10 miles long, was winding northwest through the suburbs toward the haven of the Credit River valley.

Even for a bystander on the ground, the scene at first glance had the dimensions of a real civil-defense operation.

Sweating policemen pantomimed furiously at clogged crossroads. Mobile units of the local emergency organization, radios barking messages, patrolled up and down the straggling herd of humanity like sheepdogs. At frequent checkpoints, committees of matrons chanted encouragement as they dealt out decks of peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches and slaked thirsts with endless Dixie cups of pale Kool-Aid. Important-looking men wearing armbands bellowed orders through electric megaphones. Volunteers from the St. John Ambulance Brigade scurried about like medics under fire, responding to anguished cries for foot dressings. Buses stood ready to rescue the elderly and the exhausted who could plod no farther.

The impression of crisis vanished, however, as soon

as you studied the happy faces of the “refugees” and listened to their chatter. The mood of these marchers reflected pride, satisfaction and — for AngloSaxons — an incredible joie de vivre. Dressed for gaiety, delighting in casual camaraderie, these people were swinging along to a medley of pop music and their own laughter. In spite of blistered soles and aching thighs, they were obviously having the time of their lives.

Moreover, most of the marchers were schoolchildren, a rich cross section of the generation everybody is so worried about. They included a hard core of teenagers such as Nancy Gate and bands of younger kids such as 10-year-old Stewart Sproat. Strung out against the new-green pastures, they cavorted under the soft-blue sky in a Pied Piper’s cavalcade of buoyant color. If you ask Nancy, a grade-10 student, why she found a 30mile hike in 70-degree heat so enjoyable, she will flick her twin copper ponytails and say: “I happen to think it’s a groovy way to spend a Saturday.” Ask young Stewart, a born clown with a face full of freckles and mischief, why he wasn’t back home climbing trees or riding his bike and he’ll tell you: “Because marching is fun, stupid.”

Other age groups participated in the march, of course, and they found other satisfactions. Bonnie Premich, who was born only six years ago, toddled the full 30-mile route with her mother Rita because she didn’t want to be left out of things. “She got pretty tired during the last few miles,” said Mrs. Premich, “but she wouldn’t give up.”

Charlie Burns, who was born 81 years ago, was walking because the exercise was good for him. For the second year in a row he was the oldest man in the Brampton area to make it all the way.

Irene Saunders, who works at the Ford assembly plant in Oakville, was marching because the cause was worthwhile. “My co-workers have sponsored me to the tune of $10.50 a mile.” she explained as she strode along in a sweatshirt. “That means I’ll collect more than $300. I’ve just got to finish.”

A campaign that is groovy, fun, good exercise, and involves mass participation in a worthwhile cause is the sort of thing ad men dream about in moments of wild frivolity. That is one reason why the Canadian Miles For Millions marches have, in three years, grown into a national institution and become what is probably the most popular fund-raising drive in the world.

The second reason for their success is the cunning psychology behind a sponsored march. Most of us find it painful to give away our hard-earned money to some amorphous charity. Somehow the process becomes less painful when there’s a bit of a gamble involved, when

“It’s such a groovy way to spend a Saturday**

you are betting a friend or relative that he or she can’t go 30 miles or so. A man who would never give away $30 in a lump sum finds himself doing just that when the proposition is expressed in terms of one dollar a mile.

Meanwhile, two forces are working on the people who actually do the walking. Not only are they determined to prove they can make it, they also have the immensely satisfying feeling that each step they take is helping the cause. Even if they drop out at the first checkpoint, they’ll have earned at least some money.

This inspired formula for converting blisters into greenbacks was first developed by Oxfam in England six years ago. When the idea was imported by Oxfam of Canada in 1967, it quickly proved irresistible to a society that was about to elect Pierre Elliott Trudeau as Prime Minister. After all, isn’t this what the Just Society and participatory democracy are partly about?

Last year marches were mounted in 53 centres and some 220,000 participants — including the lieutenant-governor of Alberta—walked a grand total of more than four million miles to raise three million dollars for overseas aid. This year 90 to 100 marches are planned (they were scheduled for either the spring or the fall to avoid conflicting with the local United Appeal campaign) and by the end of the year it’s expected that 400,000 walkers will have footslogged their way to $4.5-million.

“It’s a pretty remarkable nat'onal effort when nearly two percent of the population are directly involved,” says Oxfam’s Henry Fletcher. “And this response is unique to Canada. They are walking in Australia, they’re beginning to walk in the United States, and Germany is taking it up. But nowhere, not even in Britain, are people walking with as much enthusiasm as they are in Canada.”

A consortium of 13 agencies, all with programs to assist international development, are now involved in the Miles For Millions campaign. The money, minus operating costs of about 16 percent, is earmarked exclusively for use in underdeveloped countries. The “Millions” of the slogan refers not to dollars but to the number of human beings in the world who are starving, diseased and illiterate. A central co-ordinating committee, with headquarters in Ottawa, is responsible for the national planning of the marches. The decision about which particular agencies will benefit, and in what proportion, is taken at the local level. In Brampton, for instance, only three agencies were involved — Oxfam, the Y-World Service and the Canadian UNICEF Committee. In Toronto 10 shared the kitty.

As might be expected, the Miles For Millions marches have become the latest element in the traditional intercity rivalry that is such a quaint and colorful fea-

ture of Canadian life. “Several cities have issued challenges to their opponents,” says Henry Fletcher. “There’s a battle royal between Edmonton and Calgary to see who can field the most marchers and raise the most money.” In the east this year, Ottawa became the city to beat after it put 37,000 on the road in April. A few weeks later Toronto topped that with 45,000 starting the 32.5mile walk and more than 12,000 finishing it.

Compared with the army that marched up to the top of Toronto and down again five and 10 abreast, Brampton’s irregular column of 5,500 looked thin indeed. But it was nothing to be ashamed of for a catchment area of roughly 55,000 people. And the amount of organization needed to mount a march even on that small scale was prodigious. Eight district high schools, two dozen primary schools and most of the churches in a 20-mile radius provided support in one form or another. “All told,” said John Nash, a member of the 10-man planning committee, “there were at least 500 adults actively engaged in making this work.”

What the Brampton march may have lacked in grandeur it made up for in ambience. The route followed the still-undesecrated Credit valley as far as the village of Glen Williams, then headed east through some of the pleasantest farm land in southern Ontario before swinging back into downtown Brampton. Several of the marchers who took part had come from far away, lured by the attractive scenery. One such was Bill Hayes, a 23year-old peripatetic Scot currently based in Toronto. Bill is a dedicated walker, the personification of Kipling’s Tramp Royal. Since he left Glasgow five years ago, he has hiked over most of the happy roads that lead you round the world — from Istanbul to Alaska — and speaking in general he’s found them good. When he travels, Bill always wears a kilt — “It’s the only cool way to walk” — and a beloved pair of battered boots, held to-

gether by wire. And when he talks of marches, he talks as a connoisseur:

“I did the Brampton march last year and made a point of coming again this year. It’s not just the scenery. It’s because you get a friendlier sort of people on this march. They are easier to talk to than the crowd in Toronto or other big cities. I like a march that has some character, some personality to it. And that’s what I find in Brampton.”

There is no race involved in a Miles For Millions march. Everybody who finishes is a winner, no matter how late they arrive. Bill checked in about 5 p.m., 10 hours after he had set out. Several hundred were ahead of him. He had been taking it easy, he explained, because he was planning to start a 25-mile ramble up the Bruce Trail at four the next morning.

By dusk, 3,000 others had collected their certificates for completing the whole distance. They included a ragged platoon of the Lome Scots Militia, a high-school group bearing a Confederate flag, and an overweight youth who had sensibly ambled along under the shade of a purple parasol. When all the sponsored miles were added up, the Brampton march had yielded more than $100,000.

When you realize the effort expended at Brampton was being duplicated in 35 other Canadian communities that weekend, you begin to appreciate how accurately Miles For Millions reflects our times. This is a swinging, youth-oriented way of raising money. Unlike other campaigns, it recognizes that Mr. Tambourine Man is no longer the Salvation Army officer canvassing on a street corner. It m^y still be more fashionable to give the United way. But it isn’t as much fun.

Nobody who has witnessed a Miles For Millions march could fail to be inspired by the spirit that motivates them. They are not, like most marches these days, manifestations of something else that has gone wrong with the world. Rather, they suggest that maybe things are finally going right. □