Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

South Pigeon Lake fire walk across Pigeon Lake in fundraiser for Chief battling rare cancer

Firefighters from SPL and community members took to the lake for “Walk for Wayne”.

The South Pigeon Lake fire department have a great respect and love for their Chief, Wayne Benson. Wayne has been an integral part of their team for a long time, so when he had to step away from active duty due to health concerns the department felt his absence.

2020 was a difficult year for many, and for Wayne it has been extra out of the ordinary. In early 2020, Wayne began treatment for his rare form of cancer, one that impacts only 2 out of every 100,000 people. Faye Benson, Wayne’s wife, says that the average life expectancy for patients with Wayne’s diagnosis is seven months.

Wayne’s first round of treatment in 2020 started with 12 weeks of chemotherapy as part of a clinical trial for his specific cancer. He was the first patient in Edmonton to ever be part of this chemotherapy clinical trial.

This December Wayne was able to receive a stem cell transplant following six days of chemo and two days of full body radiation. Wayne and Faye have been living in an off-hospital apartment in Calgary with their floor dedicated to bone marrow transplant patients only since the transplant.

Doctors have told Wayne that the second clinical trial he was part of has gone as well, if not better than the first. Faye said that doctors told him that he has paved the way for others because of his success with the trials, they will now be using them on more cancer patients.

“He said right from the beginning, even if this doesn’t work for me maybe it will help somebody else,” Faye says about Wayne’s choice on participating in the clinical trials.

Faye says right now Wayne is ahead of plan for his treatments in Calgary, and jokes that as an active guy Wayne has surprised many doctors by choosing to walk instead of using a wheelchair the majority of the time. They have nicknamed him “the walker”.

“He’s done really well with his treatment,” Faye says. “They gave him a 40 per cent chance of getting out of the hospital period when we started the treatment. And now they are talking about possibly letting him go home a week early.”

Wayne’s firefighters know Wayne’s battle, and they also know that if he had the choice he would be at the hall with them in a heartbeat.

To show their support for him, one of his firefighters at South Pigeon Lake, Cade Johnston, decided to create the “Walk for Wayne” event. Johnston planned for himself and his fellow firefighters at SPL fire to walk across Pigeon Lake on Jan. 30, 2021 in full bunker gear as a show of solidarity for Wayne.

“He’s done so much for us at the hall, so much for all the communities around the lake that this seemed like the least we could do and just help him in his time of need,” says Johnston.

In addition to the immediate support of his fellow SPL firefighters, Johnston has recieved support from other Wetaskiwin County fire departments including Mulhurst, Millet, and Wetaskiwin. The Fire Chief from the Oyen fire department and long-time friend of Wayne’s, Paul Lijdsman also joined the walk.

“The feedback and support I have received for this is pretty astonishing,” says Johnston. “COVID has been so hard on everybody and over the past year throughout our firehall with COVID it’s been tough to have things that bring us together because firefighting is based on a brother/ sisterhood. This is going to be a great reason for us to come together for something for the greater good.”

The SPL firefighters and joining community members began their walk at 10 a.m. Jan. 30, starting at the west end inlet creek and followed the south shore around the lake to end at Ma-Me-O beach. They reached the end of the walk at approximately 3:00 p.m.

A fundraiser Facebook page, Wayne Benson Benefit, was created for the walk where all proceeds will be donated to the Bensons in addition to the collections from the day of the walk.

The SPL side-by-side followed alongside the walkers taking donations at their break stops, including Grandview. SPL fire team members also met up at the stops with a donation boot for collections.

Following the walk Johnston said that they had raised $5,480 and counting for Wayne.

Faye says that this fundraiser will help tremendously as they are still paying their bills at home as well as the additional $1,500 a month to stay in Calgary for Wayne’s treatment. “Without them things would have been pretty tight,” she says.

To Wayne and Faye, this walk means so much.

“It is overwhelming, the support that he’s got,” Faye says about the hall and community support they have been receiving. “It’s absolutely amazing.”

“It’s really hard to put in words how much it means to us. It’s so uplifting, it makes such a difference. You don’t feel like you are going through it alone,” Faye says.

Wayne and Faye even joined in on the walk via Facetime at various points to say hi to those spending their day walking across the ice in support of them.

Faye said that the walk has only boosted Wayne’s already positive attitude.

“Wayne’s positive attitude is absolutely amazing. I don’t know that I could have done it the way that he has,” Faye says. “I don’t know where he gets his strength.”

It will be at least six months to a year before Wayne will be able to jump back in action with SPL fire. However, “he is improving every day,” says Faye, and she knows that as soon as he is given the all clear by his doctors, he will be back in his fire boots and ready to keep his community safe once again.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Aerial photo/ Andre Dansereau.

Community members joined the South Pigeon Lake firefighters on the walk to show their support for Wayne Benson. Aerial photo/ Andre Dansereau.

The walkers near the end as they finish the last kilometre of their five hour trek. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

The walkers near the end as they finish the last kilometre of their five hour trek. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Cade Johnston poses with Jackie Meaver (Wayne Benson’s daughter) at the end of the walk. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Cade Johnston poses with Jackie Meaver (Wayne Benson’s daughter) at the end of the walk. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

SPL firefighters at the end of the “Walk for Wayne”. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

SPL firefighters at the end of the “Walk for Wayne”. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Johnston talks to Wayne and Faye Benson via video call at the end of the “Walk for Wayne”. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Johnston talks to Wayne and Faye Benson via video call at the end of the “Walk for Wayne”. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

A member of the South Pigeon Lake fire department carries the “Walk for Wayne” flag. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

A member of the South Pigeon Lake fire department carries the “Walk for Wayne” flag. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.

Just Posted

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Camrose RCMP request public’s assistance to locate missing senior

Kenneth Gilbert was last seen in Camrose County on Feb. 25

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Most Read