Photograph drawn by Rtr. Kasun Gallage
As said by
Rtr. Kasun Gallage,
‘TrailSL 2016 – Walk. Unite. Heal’ was a walk. A walk that started from the top most point of Sri Lanka, ‘Point Pedro’ and ended from the bottom most point, ‘Point Dondra’. A walk that was on for 28 consecutive days covering 670 KM with the tagline ‘Trail As One’. Trail 2016 was launched by former Sri Lankan Cricket Captain Mahela Jayawardena with the collaboration of Sarinda Unamboowe and Nadan Sivagunanathan and sponsorships of many organizations to raise US $ 5 million to donate a cancer treatment facility to Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle. The walk was to raise the awareness of cancer throughout the general public as well.
In a world where most of the celebrities run behind fame, TrailSL 2016 has a humble blue blooded beginning. When Mahela was a teenager, he lost his elder brother who had been a young cricketer, to cancer. That tragedy made Mahela to be one of the best cricket captains in the world. Following his brother’s footsteps in honor of his brother, Mahela organized the ‘Trail – Children’s Cancer Hospital Fund Raising Walk’. It was from South to North in July 2011 in aid of a pediatric cancer ward in Jaffna Hospital and raised US $ 2.6 million. Again this year Mahela and his colleagues organized TrailSL 2016 at Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, the hospital with the most cancer related deaths in 2015.
With high hopes, TrailSL 2016 was started from Point Pedro on 6th October 2016 with the blessings of every religion. Mahela Jayawardena, Sarinda Unamboowe and Nadan Sivagunanathan led the trail with thousands of walkers despite the culture, race or religion united as one to walk for this generous cause, showing the whole world that we as Sri Lankans are one of the most generous nations on this planet. People weren’t just walking. While some were walking, some took tills with them running along the Trail walkers and collecting donations from people in the streets. Getting into busses, running inside shops, meeting as much as people possible, they collected money for donations giving 110 percent to help this cause. People passing by were generous enough to take a little bit of time out of their time, stop by a till and dig into their pockets to put some money into the tills. Each of them had a smile on their faces despite how hard they had to work for that money knowing that they helped someone to be better. That generosity did not stop with money. From the beginning to the end of the Trail, there were hundreds of people along the roadside holding snacks and drinks for the determined people walking 20km in a day.
It was not just a walk. But a walk which got everyone together to fight for one common thing; cancer. People walked hundreds of miles with so much passion striving to fight for our own brothers and sisters. Trail combined the North and South of the country by breaking bonds of races and religions and rebuilding the bond as one country and united as one nation to walk and heal our own people.
This journey of walking 670km through the length of the Sri Lanka wasn’t an easy task. The walkers were beaten by the sun and even by heavy rainfall. None of them couldn’t do any harm to the Trail. Trail marched forward even during the rainfall. All this is thanks to people’s enthusiasm and determination. Even though the task of walking may miles without a stop is not a joyride, the walk was full of happiness, enthusiasm and a lot of heartfelt moments. Even the poorest people were seen putting all they had to tills. Passing vehicles stopping by a walker to donate money and small children running to find a till and put some coins in weren’t rare scenes for the people walking.
Knowing all that, I joined TrailSL on 26th October, the 21st day of the Trail. On this Wednesday sun was shining blessing the massive crowd that gathered to the Galle face grounds to join the walk. On one side of the ground there were Special Task Force soldiers with drinks for the crowd. On the other side there were people buying Trail merchandises. In the middle of the ground there were the guests. After few speeches and the blessings from all the religions, TrailSL day 21 started. On that busy Wednesday morning one side of the Galle road was crowded by walkers. Seconds and minutes flew by and the Trail was moving smoothly. It took some time to find the man of the day, Mahela Jayawardena. Surrounded by STF he was walking with his wife Christina, Kumar Sangakkara, Bhathiya Jayakodi, Santhush Weeraman, Dilhara Fernando, Gaminda Priyaviraj, Suneth Chithrananda, Hemal Ranasinghe and several others. All of them smiled with their fans or took pictures with them despite how tired they were walking days with the Trail. Along the roadside there were thousands of people cheering the walkers. Students took time out of their studies to cheer their favorite people admiring their effort to do a change.
People working at offices stood by the roadside with water and snacks for the people walking. With spirits high we marched. Trail passed several of the busiest cities but there was nothing to stop the Trail but to wish it all the best. Passing Kolpity, Bambalapitiya, Wattala, Dehiwala, Mount Lavinia and Ratmalana we reached Ceylon German Technical Training Institute. In front there was a 15km post. Even though the sun was shining brightly we all had a smile in our faces knowing that we are almost near to finish the task we started. Some were walking through pain; some were too tired to walk. But all of them were determined to complete Colombo to Moratuwa stretch. Thanks to glucose and cold water everyone kept walking. Within several minutes the tills were collected and the end point was just beyond that. With a feeling of achievement we finished the Trail 2016. Though the Trail went till Panadura, Moratuwa was the stopping point for us.
TrailSL was not just an event I participated as a Rotaractor, it was an event where I got to know a lot of great Rotaractors and worked together. TrailSL being the biggest walk I attended, I consider joining it as one of the greatest achievements in my life.