Archie Chantyman holds up a shirt given to him after the walk. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Archie Chantyman holds up a shirt given to him after the walk. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

29th annual Quesnel walk for sobriety abbreviated due to COVID

The Max Pius Memorial Walk for Sobriety was held on Nov. 26

Marchers set off from the Quesnel Friendship Centre and Tillicum Society in the afternoon of Nov. 26 to raise awareness for addictions.

It’s the 29th year of the Max Pius Memorial Walk for Sobriety. Walkers made the trip across the Quesnel River Footbridge to GR Baker Memorial Hospital, drawing honks of appreciation from passing cars, before returning to the friendship centre where a take-home lunch of stew and bannock was waiting for them.

Organizers were forced to ditch the usual sit-down lunch due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The walk is named after Max Pius, the first alcohol and drug counselor at the centre. He founded the walk in 1992.

The walk is part of the National Addictions Awareness week, and is organized to provide hope to those who are in an addictive lifestyle, offer prayers to people who have died, celebrate people who have been successful in achieving and maintaining a alcohol/drug free lifestyle and remember Max Pius.

Lynn Petersen, the centre’s current addictions counsellor, said she hoped the 30th anniversary of the walk in 2022 will be a return to normalcy.

“We’re planning a big celebration,” she said.

“Hopefully we’ll be through COVID-19 to the extent that people can gather.”

Overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, with 2021 on track to have more deaths than any other year on record, according to BC Coroner’s Service data.

READ MORE: Illicit drug deaths hit grim record high in the first 9 months of 2021: BC Coroners Service

“There are two health emergencies running concurrently, the COVID-19 emergency and the 0pioid overdose emergency,” Petersen said.

Petersen added she thinks the COVID-19 pandemic has also meant more people turning to old vices.

“People’s mental health has been affected in big ways, and a lot of people will turn to the methods that they know has worked in the past to help them get through,” she said.

Making things even worse, drugs have changed over the past 30 years.

“The drug supply has changed, and has gotten more dangerous,” Petersen said.

“We don’t always know what’s in the drug supply and the amounts of drugs like Fentanyl in the supply are unpredictable and therefore dangerous,” Petersen said.

More information on the Quesnel Friendship Centre and Tillicum Society’s addictions and other programs can be found on their website,

READ MORE: Quesnel Friendship Centre ‘becoming such a hub’

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