Manny Maciel should be celebrating his 65th birthday surrounded by friends and family. But like everyone else whose milestones have been annulled by the pandemic, his plans have been curbed.
Those who know the business coach, and self-described change agent, weren't the least bit surprised when he launched a plan to use his big day to orchestrate an event of his own: a fundraiser for Sick Kids Foundation (Sick Kids).
"It is my belief that the key to giving back is to connect your passion and purpose with a meaningful cause," he said. This is why he plans to walk 65 kilometres, one km for every year he's been on the planet, in an attempt to raise $25,000 for the Sick Kids.
Having witnessed childhood illness and loss through friends, he said his admiration for Sick Kids Hospital and their service to children inspired him to support the cause.
While the pandemic dampened plans for a celebration, he focused on reflection. "Feeling grateful for my life, my health, my family [and] friends [I considered] how I could celebrate my 65th year by doing something special," he said.
After coming up with the idea to walk 65 km, Maciel launched the fundraiser and began training. He admitted he was inspired by the positive response he received, but even more so by those who doubted him.
Born on the island of Santa Maria, off the coast of Portugal, his family immigrated to Waterloo Region when he was 10-years-old. This experience influenced a lifetime of self-awareness and the power of embracing "fear zones."
"Influencing others to be their best while elevating their human potential" is his calling, he said. Pre-pandemic, Maciel often spoke at events aimed at inspiring youth. He encouraged his audience to elevate potential through self-awareness, goal setting, and inspiring others through meaningful action.
The walk will take place on May 15, 2021, beginning at 4:00 a.m. He estimated it should take around 10 hours to complete. "I'm averaging 6.5 km an hour," he said. "One of my good friends (Don Cox) will be walking with me. I depend on him to keep me on track," he jested.
Training began back in the summer of 2020, hiking the Bruce Trail while also "putting in road work" on weekends.
When asked how the funds would help, he said he hoped the money will be put toward clinical advances, research and treatments, [or] facility upgrades.
$25,000 is a "lofty goal," he admitted. As of press time, he's almost 90 per cent there.
And for Maciel, the emotional payoff is "huge." He's already thinking about after May 15, setting his sights on a new goal: hiking The Bruce Trail in its' entirety - close to 900 km.
"I believe giving is nutritional for the heart and soul," he said. "Giving is contagious, often activating generosity in others. It's simple. It makes me happy."
"My social media feed will provide footage and updates on the day of the walk," he noted. Those who wish to cheer him on can follow Maciel on his Instagram profile.
"Sick Kids is a special organization fighting to save lives, passionate about finding new cures and always providing world-class care for children," he said. "They do amazing things for children, and it's an honour to be able to contribute in a small way while bringing awareness and inspiring others to give."
You can help Maciel reach his goal here.