The Bedford, NS, gym was filled with tears of joy, comfort and hope as a young man who ran 30 kilometers in honor of his best friend burst into applause.
“The whole program revolves around his legacy and the impact he has made not only on himself but on everyone here,” said Alex Ryan after hours of running on the treadmill.
Ryan’s best friend, Kai Matthews, had just finished his first year at university when he contracted meningitis B and fought the infection for nearly 30 hours before losing his battle on June 1.
Halifax family calls for change after 19-year-old boy suddenly died of meningitis
Since he lost his son, Matthews has made it his mission to raise awareness about a common and deadly strain of meningitis that is not yet included in Canada’s childhood vaccination program.
“We talked about this since we lost Kai, we didn’t know about meningitis B, we didn’t know about it ourselves and we’re knowledgeable about vaccines, we’ve had it all our lives, the whole life of a child. Everyone’s vaccinated,” she said.
Matthews joined Ryan in the final leg of his run during an all-day fundraiser aimed at lowering the odds many people face to get the meningitis B vaccine.
“Some people have to pay for it out of pocket, for some people, it is out of reach for them, some students, they cannot afford it. It costs about $300 for two doses,” he said .
Ryan has walked countless kilometers on the open road following the death of his best friend to help him mourn his loss and brainstorm ways to prevent further tragedies.
“Whenever I settled down, you know, in my head, I just passed out and went for a run. And, then throughout the process, I was just trying to think of ways to make a positive difference.” had been,” he said.
WATCH: Family partners with Acadia University to raise awareness about meningitis B
His outlet became the inspiration for a fundraiser he organized, where he committed to walking the same number of kilometers as Kai spent fighting the infection.
“Kai’s fight lasted about 30 hours, from his first symptoms until he was defeated,” Ryan said.
Ryan expressed his great gratitude to the supporters who showed up to encourage him and donate Be for Kai Foundation.
The foundation was started by Kai’s family and has already made a life-changing impact on the university community, which the young man was thrilled to be a part of.
“Nori has been spending a lot of time at Acadia. For Kai through B, they have actually set a new guideline at Acadia that all first-year students get the vaccine as part of their tuition,” said Ryan said.
Norrie plans to continue investing her energy in raising funds and awareness about the meningitis B vaccine and hopes that her journey through grief helps others in need.
He said, “We want to turn our love into something tangible and positive and I hope everyone, if they have a similar struggle in their lives, can find the strength to do so, because it makes a big difference. “