Reservist strides to help sick kids

Second Lieutenant Yana Hempler

Second Lieutenant Yana Hempler

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

A reservist is rallying the support of the running community around her cause: pounding the pavement to assist critically ill children.

Second Lieutenant Yana Hempler, a passionate member of the fitness community who works as a Logistics Officer with 39 Service Battalion, launched her new charity Run4Dreams late last year to provide financial assistance for sick children and their families.

This runner’s charity is one with a unique twist. Monies are not raised the traditional way, through pledges in a formal race.

Instead, participants register, run five-kilometres on their own time, and record their results online.

“In a physical race, everyone has to be in one place at one time, so it really limits the amount of people you can get involved,” said 2Lt Hempler. “In a virtual race, you get to run your own race at your own pace and time it yourself, or you can also submit your results from a local race.”

In mid-October, Run4Dreams held their first-ever virtual race. It raised $400 with 32 competitors in four Canadian cities paying registration fees of $24.99 to take part.

“We had good feedback on the first Run4Dreams event and we are now in the growth stage and our registration is starting to pick up,” she said. 

Top finishers receive recognition in the form of bragging rights and cash prizes. Great swag, as well as draw prizes such as donated athletic equipment or gift certificates and race entries to other local events are also available to random entrants, she adds.

Funds raised by Run4Dreams go to support the Help Fill A Dream Foundation, a non-profit that provides financial assistance and care for children under 19 suffering from life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Helping others in need is nothing new for the 27-year-old who grew up in Grande Prairie, Alta., and began volunteering for her town’s soup kitchen and her school’s recycling program at the age of 11. More recently 2Lt Hempler has volunteered for events to benefit Mustard Seed, BC SPCA, Recreation Integration Victoria, and Wounded Warriors Canada. In addition to working a full-time civilian corporate job, she still manages to find time to volunteer.

When she suffered a knee injury in the first half of 2016 that kept her out of the local race circuit, she decided to channel her energy towards helping others during her down time from running.

The concept for Run4Dreams came to her in August 2017 during a daily training run on the trail that encircles Victoria International Airport.

“I’d seen virtual races starting to emerge in the United States, but at the time I hadn’t seen any in Canada and wanted to organize one,” she says.

Her concept took flight and she has since recovered from her injury and returned to competitive running, regularly covering half-marathon (21 kilometre) distances when she trains. On Jan. 7 she competed in the Harriers Pioneer 8k Race in Saanich and finished 37th overall in a field of 221 women.

The former high school track and field and cross country running champion is a regular competitor in the Vancouver Island Racing Series and has completed six marathons including the Boston Marathon. 

While she is confident she can catch the attention of more seasoned runners with Run4Dreams, she also wants to entice beginners and those with no competitive running experience to participate.

Registration is well underway and regular-priced registration ($27.99) ends on March 15. Late registration ends on March 31 and the final result submission deadline is April 15. Group discounts are also available.

For more information or to register visit the website

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