John Gay, 24, is one of the country’s top runners, having represented Canada at the World Cross Country Championships in Denmark and World Athletics Championships in Doha in 2019. While running is the former UBC athlete’s main passion, it’s hardly his only focus in life, and for several years he has been involved with Child of Mine, a nonprofit that supports children’s homes in India. Gay is currently in the final week of a fundraiser for Child of Mine and these homes, and it is open for donations until December 1.
Child of Mine
“My family has been involved with Child of Mine for the last 11 or 12 years,” Gay says. In 2011, his family travelled to North India, and during their stay, Gay’s father “fell in love” with supporting the homes and children there. So much so, in fact, that he took on a bigger role in the organization, and for about the last decade, he has worked as the foundation’s chairman and director.
Gay says his father travels to India for a month almost every year, and in October 2019, Gay joined him. He had just competed at the world championships in Qatar in the 3,000m steeplechase, and he figured he might as well take a detour to India on his way home. While there, Gay says he integrated as another member of the close-knit family at the home. “I took part in their daily routines,” he says. “I did chores, helped prepare meals, played games.” Completely by chance, the kids had their annual track and field day while Gay was visiting.
“To take part in that and see the joy that comes with the sport really rekindled an appreciation for it in me,” he says. “It was just amazing to see how universal the language of sport is. It’s cliché, but there’s just something so pure about it.”
When Gay talks about Child of Mine, he endeavours to make clear that they’re not acting as “North American saviours” for these children. “The homes are incredible in the way that they function,” he says. “The staff there deserve almost all the credit. My dad’s role is to really understand how we as a foundation can best help them.” What this really comes down to for Child of Mine is financial support. “They do so many things well, but that all comes at a cost. The staff can’t be expected to drum up the revenue when all of their effort is put toward giving these kids the best environment to come up in.”
Gay explains that these homes (of which there are two that the foundation works with) really do become just that for the kids: a home. “The kids are supported, encouraged and loved, just as any child would be,” Gay says. “That support doesn’t end when they age out.” Instead, when the kids turn 18, many go on to pursue post-secondary education. An education is, of course, not free, and as Gay points out, “as more and more of these children grow up and their ambitions continue to grow, so do the financial demands to see them through their education.” He adds that “a Canadian dollar goes a lot further in India than it does here,” which is why he started his fundraiser, which he titled Mile by Mile.
Mile by Mile
Gay’s fundraiser started on October 17, when he reached out to family and friends and asked them each to donate one dollar for every kilometre they ran that day. “It can seem like such an inconsequential sum if you’re going for a 5K,” he says, “but when you multiply that by all the people getting out the door, it can add up so quickly.” With one week remaining in the fundraiser, total donations sit just under $600, about a quarter of the way to Gay’s ultimate goal of raising $2,500 for Child of Mine.
Gay says it has been “really gratifying” to see so many of his family and friends take on the challenge, even if they weren’t runners. “Some of my family members who don’t run at all began training in preparation for this,” he says. “Both my parents started running for the fundraiser after more than a decade away from the sport, and they’re still keeping with it now.” About 10,000 kilometres away, the children’s homes in India also staged their own runs on the same day, Gay says, once again proving how universal sport really is.
To learn more about Child of Mine and to donate to Gay’s fundraiser, click here.