Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 21 – Miles for Millions

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 21: Eartha Kitt walks Miles for Millions in Vancouver…

Miles for Millions participants vying for space with traffic on the Burrard Bridge, 1972. Vancouver Sun April 28, 1973.

Somewhere in the crowd in the photo above is my older sister and Dad starting their Miles for Millions walk for charity. My Dad was an avid recreational hiker, but I don’t think he was quite prepared for a trek quite like this:  25 miles on city pavement wearing incredibly inappropriate footwear (by today’s standards) armed only with Glossette raisins and baby powder. As I was deemed too young to participate, my contribution was limited to accompanying my stepmother to meet up with them at a checkpoint along Spanish Banks with sandwiches and snacks in hand (how this was accomplished without the aid of cellphones is a miracle). My sister remembers that Dad was absolutely “broken” by the end of it.

Starting in 1967, Miles for Millions was an annual walk-for-charity event in Vancouver and other cities & towns across Canada. Participants, many of them children and teens, would gather pledges sponsoring them by the mile with the intent of raising money for about 20 international charities, most of which helped “needy children”. By 1977, the metric system had taken hold, apathy had set in, and interest in the walk waned.

For the second annual Miles for Millions walk on May 6, 1968 singer Eartha Kitt, who was in town appearing at the Cave nightclub, was one of 6,000 walkers who completed the 25-mile trek. She was given a round of applause as she entered the Seaforth Armoury at the end of the walk. Ms. Kitt told reporters that she was sponsored at over $100 per mile by “a conglomeration of people in Vancouver“. The average participant’s sponsorship was anywhere from $1 – $20 per mile. Sporting a white tennis outfit for the trek, Ms. Kitt apparently walked the final 6 miles without her shoes “because my feet were hurting so much“. She was not complaining though, commenting that “If I had to do the walk again, I would. I was held to help children in need all over the world, and that is good enough for me“.

Eartha Kitt rests after her 1968 Vancouver Miles for Millions walk. Vancouver Sun May 6, 1968.


4 thoughts on “Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 21 – Miles for Millions

  1. Eartha Kitt was such a class act! I don’t know if she was ever given honourary Vancouver citizenship but she should have been, I remember how she performed annually at the Commodore Ballroom. I arrived in the city too late to see her at the Cave but, in 1981, I did get to see the Pointed Stick perform at the Cave, in the two weeks before that legendary venue was torn down!

  2. Christine I have really enjoyed this series. Great work!

    I was recently reminded of my participation in Miles for Millions when I attended a Vancouver Heritage Foundation event at the Seaforth Armoury and realized the last time I was inside the building was at the end of a Miles for Millions walk (probably in 1972). It was a challenging walk for most kids – I still remember the sore feet the day after.

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