The Week — Jan. 12

Jogging not just for wealthy, and bubbles turn contentious

Program coordinator Gillie Easdon says every person needs to move their body, no matter their barriers.

Jogging not just for wealthy

By the second week of January, it’s hard enough for most of us to stick to our New Year’s fitness resolutions without having to worry about where we’ll be sleeping tonight. But, for some, those resolutions aren’t only key to getting healthy — they’re key to staying afloat.

For the third year this January, Cool Aid’s REES Program is offering free jogging and athletic workshops for members of Victoria’s street community. But only weeks ago, the group added one more to the “Every Step Counts” family by launching a women-only group out of Sandy Merriman House. And while the clinics are geared for those with barriers, they are open to anyone who just doesn’t like jogging alone.

“We go out for a walk, return, stretch and have a delicious healthy snack,” says Gillie Easdon, Every Step Counts coordinator. “The real beauty of this program is that you can come in with whatever issues you have, but you leave them on the pavement. Exercise is a great leveler, and the community — and endorphins — you feel when you are jogging with a group like this can really help you to see how human we all are.”

While the program allows participants to attend with no commitment, they receive incentive rewards every time they show up. Women are given gently used running shoes to start. At five sessions, they score a water bottle. At 10, a running shirt and certificate. At 15, the participant receives new shoes. The milestones go up and up.

“Even if some people only come out for the free shoes, it still gets you there. This program isn’t just about running and walking — it’s about getting what you really need,” says Easdon. “And that’s the same for everyone: you need to feel accepted, to move your body and to eat some good food. It’s nice to take a break from the rest of life for a bit.”

The women’s meet-ups gather every Tuesday and Friday at 10 a.m. at Sandy’s, and the co-ed program meets at the Downtown Activity Centre on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Contentious bubbles

Fernwood’s Bubbleman Terry Wilson is nursing a bubble of a bruised jaw this week after a man reacted so strongly to Wilson’s creations that he punched the Bubbleman in the face.

Wilson, 64, who has been making bubbles on the intersection of Fernwood and Gladstone for the last eight years, says he was out last Saturday night around 10 p.m., when a vehicle rounded the corner and the driver began hurling insults at him.

“He told me I shouldn’t be out there doing that, and I don’t really remember what else he said, but he was very rude and very angry,” says Wilson, who adds he is not sure what set him off.

Wilson says he told the man “bubbles do have the power to affect some drivers’ brains” and then proceeded to step in front of the car to read off his licence plate out loud. With that, the driver allegedly accelerated and lunged the car at Wilson. He leaped out of the way and kicked the man’s fender. Then, according to Wilson, the driver got out of his car, marched over and punched him in the face.

“Six or so people ran out of the Fernwood Inn and surrounded the man, and came and helped me up, but I was so shaken, I couldn’t even figure out how to dial 911 properly,” says Wilson, who was left with broken glasses and a bleeding mouth.

The man drove away before police arrived, but VicPD media spokesperson Cst. Mike Russell says officers have made contact with the accused, and the case is still under investigation. “There are drastically different stories coming from each side, so our officers are still investigating and doing due diligence.”

Wilson, a Fernwood fixture and a favourite character of the community, says that the man marks the third person in about three years to dislike his bubbles — though he adds that he’s never been punched over them before. While Wilson admits to being shaken by the incident, he says he won’t let one spoil sport ruin the magic: he was out with his Bubble Wand again on Sunday morning.

“It was a shake-up, it really was. But the worst part was the discouragement of my art, and the put downs,” he says. “The old Terry might have let something like that scare him away for good, but too many people love the bubbles to let someone ruin this for everyone.” M

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