‘Keeping his memory alive’

Published 3:03 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Approximately 20 women and men, many of them members of the Kenbridge/Victoria Lions Club, set out on a foggy and cool morning Saturday to walk the more than 5 miles from the Food Lion on Victoria’s Main Street to the Shoppers Value on Kenbridge’s Main Street.

Crossing a bridge and walking up and down hills as vehicles passed, participants used the time to talk with fellow walkers, or jog and run solo. All were united for a common goal: to raise funds to help those with vision impairments in the community, to remember the man who started the annual walks 13 years ago.

Ken Saunders, a former member of the Kenbridge/Victoria Lions Club, died in February 2017.

The club’s tailtwister, a member who encourages community involvement while also supporting the club’s activities, Saunders established the White Cane Walk to raise support and awareness about the club’s mission to provide efforts for preventative care for visual impairments.

Saunders would participate in the walks each year. He was often accompanied by his guide dog, Casper.

Saunders, born in Hamilton, Bermuda in 1955 and attended a school for the blind in Richmond.

He met Marlene O’Connell, Saunders’ wife, while at school.

Saunders became a member of the Lions Club in 2001.

O’Connell participated in the walk Saturday with other volunteers, handing out water bottles and checking on participants walking along K-V Road.

Also handing out water bottles was Saunders’ mother, Dorothy.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful son,” Dorothy said.

She said she was heartened to see the walks continue in his memory, and valued the goal of the walks to raise funds for eye care in the area.

At the end of the route, volunteers met walkers at a canopy at Shoppers Value, cooking hot dogs and setting out bottles of water, Gatorade and snacks for participants of the walk.

Theodore Gibson, who also walked, met participants at Shoppers Value. He said the mission of the walks, particularly to remember Saunders and unite the community, is important to him.

“It’s keeping his memory alive,” Gibson said.

Club President Sandra (Kay) Gordon and Club Secretary Bonnie Alston said they were humbled by the turnout, including a few people from New York and excited to see active participation from volunteers, including youth who helped at the canopy at Shoppers Value.

“We had a great turnout,” Gordon said. “We’re getting more support in the community in the past few years.”

Ryan Saunders, Saunders stepson, said this was his first time participating in the walk.

“I ran it,” Ryan said. “I’ve enjoyed it.”

O’Connell said the club’s active role in both remembering Saunders and providing the community with resources related to eye care and other needs deserves support.

“That’s what it’s all about,” O’Connell said about the community service aspect of the walk.

To learn more about the walk and the Lions Club, contact Alston at bel2alston@aol.com or (434) 696-3557.