From left to right Keira, Bree, Alea and Erin Baker, with their parents Erica and Gary standing behind them. Photo contributed.

Professor hits the road for student in hospital

Second fundraising walk through Shuswap-Okanagan for father-of-four who suffered an aneurism.

For the second year in a row, an Okanagan College professor will set out Wednesday on what is this year an even more ambitious six-day trek in an effort to raise money for local student Gary Baker, who suffered a massive brain aneurism last August, and who remains in critical condition in Vancouver General Hospital following nine surgeries, extensive treatments and therapies.

Dr. Tim Walters, an English professor in the Resistance and Revolution program at the Salmon Arm campus, aims to walk between the Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton campuses and then back again—a distance of 330 kilometres—setting out Aug. 30 and arriving at his destination Sept. 4.

“I’ve known Gary and his family for several years, I’ve watched them struggle bravely to deal with this for the past year, and I’m very motivated to do anything I can to try to help him and his family,” explained Walters.

Baker, a Salmon Arm father of four and a volunteer firefighter, was until recently a student at Okanagan College, having returned to school to pursue a career in engineering after years of working as a timber framer. On Aug. 1 2016, he suffered a massive brain aneurism while playing soccer, and after an enormously difficult year he may still take many months or even years to recover.

“The Bakers were and remain valued members of our college community,” said Walters. “His family has battled an unimaginably awful situation for over a year now, and one of the challenges we can help them with is the financial costs his wife and four daughters have had to take on as a result of moving to Vancouver to provide Gary the daily care and support that he needs.”

Although a keen hiker, Walters will average 55 kilometres on each of the six days of his fundraising walk, double the distance he walked last year, and further than he has ever walked before.

Last year the community donated just shy of $14,000 for the Bakers, “which was amazing and inspiring,” Walters says, “and I’m really hoping we can top that this year.”

Sponsors wishing to donate can do so at the GoFundMe page: Walters will be posting photographs, videos, and regular updates of his progress on a Facebook group page—“Campus to Campus Fundraising Walk”—so sponsors and supporters can follow him along the way.

Gary’s wife Erica writes that Gary was making great improvements after undergoing nine surgeries, extensive treatments and therapies, as well as fighting through unending complications and infections. He had begun to take a few steps and was finally able to communicate, speaking occasionally but mostly through a blinking system.

“He said things that were so ‘Gary’ and everyday impressed us with how intact his memory and cognitive abilities were. After one complication where he was very sick, I re-explained to Gary the aneurysm and why he was in the hospital. I asked him if he had anything he wanted to ask about it and his response was ‘Are you in pain?’

“He has always been selfless, and even in the midst of not being able to do anything he previously had (walking, talking, moving, seeing), he still thinks of his family’s well-being first. Most recently, on a particularly hard day, Gary told me, “We have to take turns being strong.”

She explains that at the end of July, almost one year to the day of his initial admission to Vancouver General Hospital, Gary ended up back in the Intensive Care Unit when an infection suddenly triggered seizures that would not respond to medications. On Aug. 8, Gary again underwent surgery and had a brief reprieve from the seizures but they returned.

“The prognosis from the doctors varies, some doctors are hopeful and willing to keep trying, others have strongly told me that Gary has no chance of recovery. We know Gary is still strong and we believe he would still want to fight to come back to his family so we chose to fight for him and to hope!”

She expresses her gratitude to the community for the man she describes as an incredible man and an amazing husband, father and friend.

“He has an incredible family who love him to the end of their strength. He also has a fantastically supportive community who have made it financially possible for us to be with Gary in Vancouver for an entire year. Thanks for continuing to stand with us in this long and difficult battle.”


Tim Walters’ supporters at the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College welcome him when he completes last year’s walk for the Baker family. Photo contributed.

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