Gilbert Kiptoo usually has running on his mind when he arrives in Thunder Bay.
But once the race is done, the Kenyan marathoner is all about giving back to the community. On Monday the two-time winner of the Thunder Bay Marathon: Miles with the Giant stopped by Kingsway Park Public School to enlighten students from Grade 4 to Grade 8 about what life was like growing up in his African homeland.
Students were surprised to learn that many Kenyan children often go to bed hungry because there’s no food to eat and no money to buy any more.
They learned school-age children often have no choice but to walk five kilometres each way back and forth to school each day. And they were also taught that in the absence of mattresses, kids often sleep on the floor.
Eleven-year-old Tyra Woodbeck said she had no idea what life was like in Africa. It’s a heck of a lot different than Canada, she said.
“I think that we should be happy with what we have, because they don’t have what we have, and that’s special,” she said.
“We should be thankful.”
Brock Tipple, whose father ran in Sunday’s marathon, said he learned a pretty simple lesson from Kiptoo.
“I learned not to be selfish and be thankful for what you’ve got. It was exciting listening to what he had to say.”
Hunter MacKenzie, 12, called Kiptoo’s 30-minute talk inspirational.
“As a runner myself, I think he’s come a long way since he was living in poverty in Kenya. It’s just really nice to see that he’s achieved so much.”
Kiptoo, who uses the proceeds from his race winnings to give back to schools in his home community in Kenya, said he’s made it his life’s mission to inspire children to do their best. Unless you try, he told them, you can never succeed.
Students in Canada should not take for granted that which they have, said Kiptoo, who also took this year’s Firefighter’s Ten Mile Road Race and in the past has welcomed Thunder Bay residents into his community, where he said they’ve helped rebuild the fortune of its people.
Small groups can make a difference, and it’s because of their generosity that he wants to give back, at the same time teaching that great things can be done regardless of one’s surroundings. He’s living proof, he said.
But it doesn’t always work, said Kiptoo and that’s why outside help is necessary at times.
“Some people somewhere don’t have anything. Actually they want to get what (Canadians) have, but they can’t,” he said.
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