Gary Averbach
Credit: Gary Averbach

The 79-year-old trekked from Calgary to Vancouver to raise money for cancer

One would think that the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be” would feature heavily in the rotation for Gary Averbach. After all, the partner of Vancouver-based real estate outfit Belmont Properties did walk those 500 miles and then some in his journey from Calgary to Vancouver to raise money for cancer in the name of his cousin and business partner, Bob Golden, as well as three other close friends.

But alas, Bob’s Walk for Cancer instead heavily and understandably featured “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra. There were, says Averbach, some times when he thought the theme song should actually be “What a Wonderful World.”

“The mountains are really unbelievable,” says Averbach over the phone after just having reached East Vancouver. “There’s a point where you come down to the hill toward Sicamous after walking for weeks in mountains, forest, parkland. You look down and see the fertile fields. It’s almost like seeing the promised land. It’s a gorgeous province, no question about it.”

But there have also been some tough times in the journey for the 79-year-old. “The mountains were cold—climbing up and down four mountain passes between Calgary and Revelstoke wasn’t easy,” he notes. “The hardest part was around Cache Creek and Spences Bridge, the dessert there. It was 41 degrees. I did some training in Palm Springs in April, but the heat [at Cache Creek] was different. It’s just sagebrush and cactus, no shade.”

The expedition was something that Averbach had always wanted to do, but it was only really put into motion when Golden passed away in August 2021. "I decided that in my 80th year I would do it, but I never thought about it as a fundraiser, it was more of a bucket list item,” says Averbach. Golden’s cancer progressed quickly and he decided to undergo an assisted death.

“He was in such pain, and the night before he did it, I went to say goodbye,” recalls Averbach. “He wanted me to do the walk to raise money for cancer. So it was a death bed promise.” Three other close friends also recently lost their lives to cancer, so Averbach added them to the cause.

He's made good on the pledge. Recently, the downtown Vancouver resident surpassed his goal of $500,000 raised, hitting just over $540,000. Tomorrow (August 11), he’ll arrive at the Jack Poole Plaza to be greeted by friends and relatives. “It’s truly the greatest pleasure I’ve had,” he says.