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Surrey resident runs in honour of former teacher, running partner

Joshua Sloan had the Surrey firefighters join him for a run to Bear Creek Park from Simon Cunningham Elementary

Joshua Sloan felt like a champion Saturday (Oct. 9), especially for his good friend and former teacher and running partner.

Sloan, who has Down syndrome, has a goal to run 100 miles in two months and to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of Debbie Kovacs. He has a goal of raising $20,000.

Kovacs was Sloan’s teacher from Grade 2 to Grade 7 at Simon Cunningham Elementary, as well as his friend and running partner.

“She taught me how to read, how to write, how to do math and she taught me to run cross country,” writes Sloan on his fundraising page. “When we ran we would always sing together, ‘We Are The Champions.”

Kovacs died of cancer in 2015, but 27-year-old Sloan kept running, even in the Special Olympics.

Running to Bear Creek Park from Simon Cunningham Elementary, Sloan was joined by friends, family and Surrey firefighters. When the group arrived at the park, they did a lap around the lower track and he finished with “We Are The Champions” playing.

Sloan’s dad, Jim, said Saturday was “all about Debbie.”

“This is the route that Debbie and Josh would run when they practised their running,’ noted Jim.

“They would come down and run around the track from the school and then Debbie would support him in the cross-country meets and run with him or cheer him on at the cross-country meets that were held here.”

Jim said it’s so exciting the way Sloan can generate this type of support.

“It’s been really kind of the firefighters to get on board, some of his old teachers are going to be here to cheer him on,” he said.

“This is the halfway point for him and it’s just great to generate awareness for him and awareness for what he’s doing.”

Lynn, Sloan’s mom, said it’s been a hard few years for everyone since Kovacs died, but this fundraising initiative has been “a bright light in kind of dark days right now.”

“He wanted to run a race for Mrs. Kovacks. We thought this was the perfect time to do it.”

Asked how he felt after the run, Sloan said he felt loved.

“I feel loved. I love these people. They’re my friends, they’re my family and I love them. I have great memories of my teachers in school at Simon Cunningham.”

Prior to the run, two Chipotle locations – the one in Guildford and another in Langley – held a fundraiser for Sloan, who is a fan of the fast-food chain.

With that, Chipotle presented Sloan with a cheque for $2,000 from the fundraiser.

The Surrey Fire Fighters’ Charitable Society also made a donation of $5,000 toward his goal.

By Saturday afternoon, Sloan had raised $8,910.

Proceeds from his fundraiser will support multiple myeloma cancer research, programs and more. To donate, visit

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Joshua Sloan, 27, is raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society in honour of his good friend and former teacher and running partner, Debbie Kovacs. She died from cancer in 2015. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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