September 8th, 2007
The day has finally arrived. My journey across Canada on in-line skates is coming to and end. But the battle against cancer remains.
I couldn’t let myself get too excited, though, because I still had some skating to get done. I strapped on the blades on the north side of Nanaimo pretty early today since I had to be at Departure Bay ferry terminal by 8:00 am. When I rolled up to the docks, it felt like the crew was already expecting us. They put us in a separate lane and explained that we would be the last vehicle on the boat so that I wouldn’t affect traffic when we depart in Horseshoe Bay. I was hoping to have some time on board to catch up on journals and pictures, but when the Captain announced that I was there, my morning just got busier. During the announcement you could sense that everyone was listening intently and trying to figure out who I was. My Dad was about 30 feet away from me chatting with some people and began yelling “Stand up! Stand Up!” I rouse to my feet and gave a bashful wave as everyone around turned to look and applaud. Almost immediately people began coming up to me and hand me donations.
Once the congratulations died down, I had the chance to meet a few interesting people on board. An incredibly generous and caring family from Aruba spent some time talking to me and asking about my journey. Then Bill Robinson introduced himself to me. He told me about an organization he started called Hidden Heroes. It is basically like a leadership camp for children in BC. He then asked if I would consider being a guest speaker at the camp. I’d love to, Bill.
When the ferry floated into Horseshoe Bay I waited patiently with my skates on as all of the cars departed. Finally I was given the ‘All Clear’ and was permitted to roll down the ramp onto the mainland. I hadn’t been on the pavement for more than 3 seconds when a policeman on a motorcycle pulled in front of me to begin my escort through West Vancouver. After another 35 meters, I looked to my right and saw 3 smiling faces watching me. Eugene, Ryan and the one and only, Adam didn’t want to wait at the Inukshuk for me. They came right to the ferry to participate in the final convoy of my journey.
Just before heading thorugh West Vancouver towards downtown, I had to make a quick stop at Trolls Restaurant to meet up with a few members of the Vancouver Torrent In-line Skate club. 3 of them decided to join me for the last leg of my trip. So off we headed across the rolling hills of Marine Drive with a dual police escort. I think the hills would have been tougher for me, but I had a pretty big surge of adrenaline to keep me going. It also helped having a crew of people to skate with.
The group grew even larger when we arrived at Park Royal mall where we were joined my several other members from the Torrent including Conny who helped set it all up, as well as my friends Kirsten, Pat, and Dave. Crystal also hopped out of the RV with her skates on for the final haul into Vancouver. It was pretty impressive to see about 20 or so skaters huddled around and then funnel down the road and over the Lions Gate Bridge. Once over the bridge, some more friends, Kevin and Jay, joined the procession on bicycles. Like a swarm of bees, we all followed the police into the heart of Stanley Park and around Prospect Point. We eventually met back up with Georgia Street and took over a traffic lane on the busy street. Cars were bumper to bumper, so our momentum was creeping along at a slow crawl. We worked our way up Georgia to Richards Street (ironic, I know), went one block south to Robson Street where we hung a right and headed back down towards Denman Street. The exposure was incredible. People couldn’t help but notice us. There was clapping, cheering, honking, sirens and flashing lights. With a final turn onto Denman Street, I was now heading down the last few hundred meters of a historical journey. I could see the bright red Boston Pizza tent down by the Inukshuk and crowd of people anxiously waiting for me to roll in. And then, just as quickly as I took my first few strides in St. John’s, Newfoundland, my trip came to an end at English Bay.
There was more cheering and clapping from an amazing crowd consisting of friends, family, colleagues, sponsors and strangers. The Deputy Mayor of Vancouver was there to congratulate me in my efforts. So many people from Hostway Canada were on hand to witness my finale. Hostway has always been supportive, but it was incredible to see so many people out to greet me. I posed for a few quick photos before removing my skates and plunging head first into the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sure, it was cliche, but I bet if you skated across the country, you’d have the same urge.
The ‘Thank You’ speeches were filled with tears, embraces and surprises. In a moment like this, you might feel prepared with words to share. But when it comes down to it, nothing can make you ready for the flood of emotions that come gushing out. I tried my best to recognize and acknowledge everyone who played an important role in the Skate For Hope. But I’m sure I missed someone. To anyone I forgot, Thank you. The crowd listened as I spoke, the deputy Mayor spoke, my parents spoke, Robbie (Hostway) spoke and Andrea (Boston Pizza) spoke. But I was at a loss for words when Andrea and Brian walked over to me from the Boston Pizza tent and handed me a giant novelty check in the amount of $5000. The support they have provided across the country has been wonderful, and this was just icing on the cake.
After some mingling, chatting and pizza, another big moment was awaiting me. I was finally going to my apartment! As comfortable as the bed in the RV was, I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own place again! But my work was far from over. I still had to unload everything from the RV in lug it up to my apartment. Once I felt confident everything was out, I took a peek in my living room which looked like a bomb had gone off. There was skate gear, clothes, shoes, papers and parcels everywhere. It’s a good thing I don’t have to go back to work until October. I think it’ll take me a month to organize everything.
Adam, Ryan, Eugene, Crystal, my parents and I went out for a celebratory dinner before heading to the Rivers Reach pub in New Westminster for the after-party. As I walked around the pub talking to friends I hadn’t seen in months, part of me began feeling like I had never left. I especially want to thank Jordan for putting together the wrap-up party. You went above and beyond any expectations. The posters, the table settings, the food, the balloons and even personalize donation envelopes. It was truly remarkable. And thank you to the Rivers Reach for hosting the event and the surprise donation, as well. This was exactly what I needed to conclude my journey.
Having Adam with me at the end of this trip made the entire struggle worth every grueling stride. 10,000 kilometers. 4 intense months. 1 amazing country. And countless lives changed forever.
The Skate For Hope is far from over. It’s only just begun. Together we can fight cancer one stride at a time and we will See The End