Sunday, June 2, 2018 marked the 6th annual MADD Strides For Change event in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada. If you recall, I served as the co-race director for the first 5 years of the event until moving to London, Ontario last September. I decided to return for ‘old times’ sake and support the event by actually participating. It is a cause close to my heart…thus, it was worth the trip in for the morning.
Patti and I arrived bright and early – immediately, I literally ‘ran into’ my good friends – CEO of MADD, Andy Murie, his wife, Joan and their son, Alex (who just happened to WIN the 5 kilometre run component of the event – no, it was NOT fixed!!!).The setting once again was in J.C. Saddington park along the shores of Lake Ontario. The route was changed slightly due to major construction in the central part of Port Credit. I actually prefer the new route!! As usual, the MADD team and volunteers did a phenomenal job in putting together all components. From the unique MADD signage,to the professional start/finish banner,to the MADD SFC mascot,and the food and beverage stations, it was first class all the way.Arriving a tad early, I had a chance to view the volunteers and full-time MADD staff in action mode. They set up each booth in record time, including all of the sponsors’ tables and silent auction items.
For any group thinking of a fund-raising event, they would be wise to study the MADD model. It is quite simply world calibre. It was also a time to re-connect with a few of my longtime running pals from the Southdown Striders. I do not see them often any more let alone have a chance to run with them from the Clarkson Tim Horton’s! Thus, this was a special opportunity. In the photos below, you will see the legend, Roger Fisher (foreground), flanked by ‘young’ Rick (full beard) and ‘old’ Rick (my other bro’!) andour other legend, Helga, Roger’s partner and one of the bravest souls on the planet.Of course, there HAD to be at least TWO barefoot runners in the field. You know I would be one of them – the other being ‘young’ Rick. He poses in the photo below pre-race between ‘old’ Rick and another Southdown Strider, John. ‘Young’ Rick makes a point of running barefoot at the MADD event year simply to make me proud!!! Seriously, he runs strong and fast without injury barefoot – he finished 7th overall with no speed work preparation. He told me afterwards that his feet felt great as did he!! I know he will NEVER be a full-on convert to running barefoot BUT he certainly is good at it. By the way, I cruised the 5 kilometres with my ‘bro’, ‘old’ Rick – not only did my feet feel good but so did my soul. I had forgotten how much I missed running with my best friend after 30 years of doing so 5 days per week!!
Patti’s good friend and fellow vestibular balance-challenged friend, Karen, showed up to have a visit with us. Patti and Karen stay in regular contact, exchanging progress reports and offering support when most needed on their journey. It was great to see Karen again – she is an inspiration and positive role model.The Master of Ceremonies was Janice Golding, an on-air personality at CTV. She provided a high energy running commentary of the features for the event. This was her third time serving the cause!! One such component was introducing a young man from Saskatchewan who witnessed his mother and grandmother killed by a drunk driver whilst they were coming back from a family wedding. He was in the car behind and had to put a blanket over his mother’s body as she was pronounced dead. You will notice him in the photo below addressing the event attendees. Afterhis heart-wrenching speech, he led a group of family members of victims of drunk drivers in the ceremonial start of the event. Even though this was a solemn moment where you could hear a pin drop, the young lad told me afterwards that this was all a part of the healing process. He said “I will never be the same person I was before the incident BUT, through the assistance of MADD Canada and a strong support network of friends, I WILL carry on!”.Another powerful moment for me was the viewing of the victims’ wall – a memorial testament to victims of drunk drivers. It is a stark reminder of the senseless act of violence that destroys the lives of so many Canadians every year!I had a chance to tour the school education multi-media traveling van that teaches school aged youth about the ravages of drunk driving. It is one of the best laid-out presentations that I have witnessed and, from what I was told, the best at getting the message across to our next generation of drivers. Harrison (in the second photo below) runs the programme – he is one special human being!!
At 9:00 a.m. sharp, we started off from the Saddington Park en masse – runners, walkers and those pushing kids in strollers. This is more of an event than a race even though there are medals for first, second and third place!! The big thing is participating, raising funds and awareness for a fantastic cause and enjoying of the best organized events in the country!!There were volunteers all along the route to keep everyone on course and safe. I have always said that MADD has the most dedicated and outstanding volunteers – bar none!!! At the end of the day, though,it was the 400+ participants who made the day a resounding success. There were many families partaking which I thought added a wonderful dimension that you do not often find at high level races.I want to acknowledge my good friend and the CEO of MADD, Andy Murie, who was front and centre throughout the morning and beyond (he is facing the camera in the photo below). He puts 100% into everything he does but especially the Strides For Change day. He knows how important it is at increasing awareness, generating media coverage and attracting more Canadians to the importance of ENDING Drunk and Drug driving.Here’s to you, Andy, and here’s to making a positive difference in the lives of all Canadians.