Andre Vanderstoep will turn 27 on Sept. 27, but he won't be celebrating this birthday milestone with a day off.

Instead of spending his Sunday birthday resting, Vanderstoep will be completing the longest run he's ever done -- and donating the proceeds to a Manitoba ministry.

"Because of COVID, I had a lot of fall races that were cancelled, unfortunately ... so instead of losing a season of races, I wanted to do something meaningful and memorable and beyond just running for my own sake," says Vanderstoep.

Vanderstoep, an avid runner for the past six years, says he was first introduced to the sport by a friend from Providence University College.

"Shoutout to Gina [Turnbull] who ... took me for a run on the highways around Providence University. I haven't looked back since," Vanderstoep says.

"When you do a run, you feel like you accomplish so much and just that feeling of accomplishment really keeps me going."

It was back in June when Vanderstoep was really weighing his options for running over the summer and fall when he decided on his course of action. At the time, the Soul Sanctuary children's pastor was also speaking with friends from Camp Arnes.

"They shared, like many other non-profit organizations, that COVID had not been kind to them financially so it just made sense to dedicate the fundraising from this run to Camp Arnes," he says.

Vanderstoep, who worked at another Winnipeg church prior to moving to Soul Sanctuary, developed connections with several staff members at Camp Arnes and even spoke at the camp for a few weeks one summer. That, coupled with his support of the camp's work, resulted in his decision to ultimately support Arnes with his event.

"As a Christian pastor, of course, I stand behind Arnes' mission to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with kids, so it was an easy choice, I guess," says Vanderstoep.

Vanderstoep's initial plan was to run 27 miles on his 27th birthday and have 27 people donate $27.

He took to Facebook to share his GoFundMe page announcing the event.

"The response was substantial," Vanderstoep says. "I think I surpassed the goal in a day or two."

He pondered what to do next, seeing as the run was still a few months away. He decided to increase his goal.

🏃🏼❗🏃🏼❗🏃🏼❗ 50k Run Update: As we are now two weeks away from my run, I want to give two updates! First, when I posted...

Posted by Andre John Vanderstoep on Saturday, September 12, 2020

"I shared with those following this that I am prepared to run 50 kilometres if we can raise ... an additional $500 and get the goal up to $1,500," Vanderstoep explains.

That goal, too, was passed in a day. So Vanderstoep stretched his goal one more time.

"And that was to $2,700, to keep with the theme of 27," he says.

He didn't increase his running distance the third time, however.

Vanderstoep is just shy of that final goal as he prepares for his weekend run.

"It's only the second time that I'll have done [this] distance," Vanderstoep says. "I've done a 50 [kilometre] before but this will probably turn out to be a hair longer just because of the route that I chose but it will probably be the longest run that I've done."

Vanderstoep's route for his run on Sept. 27. (Andre John Vanderstoep/Facebook)Vanderstoep's planned route for his run on Sept. 27. (Andre John Vanderstoep/Facebook)

Vanderstoep says he hopes to start his run around 7:00 a.m. Sunday and finish his distance in about five-and-a-half hours.

His route, based in the south end of the city, will see him run around St. Vital Park, past St. Vital Centre, and around the Minnetonka, Pulberry, and Victoria Crescent neighbourhoods.

When he finishes, he will have run further than the distance of a full marathon.

"If people want to come out and wave while I'm doing loops, it will be a six-and-a-quarter loop, five times and I would love all and any encouragement," Vanderstoep says.

Camp Arnes will also participate in Vanderstoep's run.

"We are super thankful for Andre," says Jared Olojan, an office administrator for the camp. "He was a speaker back in 2019 and his week ... in all my years at Arnes, I haven’t seen a sort of gospel response like Andre’s week."

Olojan knows Vanderstoep personally and will represent Camp Arnes at Vanderstoep's run Sunday.

Beginning at 6:30 a.m., Olojan will be set up with a booth along Glen Meadow Street near the community garden with a sign letting people know how much money has been raised for the camp and how many laps Vanderstoep has completed.

Camp Arnes merchandise will be available for purchase with all proceeds going towards Vanderstoep's goal of $2,700.

Snacks and beverages will also be available and a draw will be set up to win a two-night stay at Camp Arnes' newly-renovated Redekopp cabin, a luxury two-storey cabin in view of Lake Winnipeg with four bedrooms and a full kitchen.

To encourage people to come out to the event, Olojan says the camp has a special offer.

Anyone who comes to bike, run, or skate a lap along Andre's route with the runner will receive some free camp merch for their support and participation.

"It's our way of saying thanks to people who come out to support Andre," Olojan says.