Santa’s epic run raises money for homeless youth

·2 min read

Bigfoot wasn’t the only magical being spotted in the Slocan Valley over the Christmas season (see story, page 3).

Residents living along the Slocan Valley Rail Trail might have spotted Santa himself jogging up the valley in the days before the holiday.

But in that case, it was a very real apparition.

“The Slocan is such a beautiful area, the scenery on the way up – you can paint a picture – it’s just such a beautiful landscape,” says Umberto Soda, who ran most of the length of the valley wearing a Santa suit. “A lot of cars were honking, it was great to raise awareness. I love all the great support we got on the way.”

Soda ran more than 160 kilometres in 12 days preceding Christmas, running several marathons’ worth of distance in stages, and visiting communities from Kaslo to Castlegar to Fruitvale.

It was part of a ‘Santa on the Run’ fundraiser. Soda was raising money for Covenant House, a homeless shelter for youth in Vancouver. A former coastal resident, Soda found the organization reflected his own life experience.

“My whole mission – as a youth I had a path of drugs, alcohol and crime – my purpose is to help prevent youth from going down that wrong path. That’s why I do this.

“And we heard a lot of great things about Covenant House,” he says. “We thought they were a great organization.”

Soda raised over $1,000 for the shelter during his runs. His goal, however, is $25,000, and he vows to continue his run to raise money for the charity in the new year. Any donations to the cause will be matched by two celebrities – Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds, and Gossip Girl star Blake Lively.

Continuing to run won’t be a problem for Soda… he’s working to qualify as an Olympic runner. And next year, he may do the run as The Grinch.

If you’d like to contribute to the cause, visit

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice