Marsh's emotional ride
Don Brennan, QMI Agency
|Former Senator Brad Marsh pauses during an emotional speech at Scotiabank Place on Monday to thank supporters during a stop on his 90 Day Challenge of biking across Canada to raise money and awareness for the Boys and Girls Club. (QMI Agency/Errol McGihon)
OTTAWA - Halfway or so through his coast-to-coast bike ride across Canada, Brad Marsh says he feels strong and he’s getting stronger.
Fact is, the former Senators defenceman almost looks like he should consider a comeback.
“Just for one, two-week paycheque,” the 54-year-old Marsh joked Monday.
After starting his 90 Day Challenge in support of the Boys and Girls Clubs in a Vancouver rain that turned to snow on April 25, Marsh arrived at Scotiabank Place for a pitstop and warm welcome home from friends and supporters. He was presented two $5,000 cheques for his cause from the Senators Foundation and the Bell Capital Cup, while Mayor Jim Watson sent word that he was declaring it Brad Marsh Day in Ottawa. Never mind that the day was almost over. The thought was there.
“When you roll into a Boys and Girls Club, it’s just fun,” Marsh, who will visit about 30 of them over the course of his marathon, said through a voice that cracked slightly. “But when you come into an environment like this, it is emotional, when you see people come out to support you, people come out and get behind what you’re doing.”
Marsh has been accompanied by his 26-year-old son Erik for the whole journey. So far, Erik has biked about 2,000 km with his dad, as well as penned nightly Facebook updates (BradMarsh90DayChallenge). Brad’s wife Patty, his other son Patrick and his daughters Madeline and Victoria have been with him through various parts of the journey.
At every opportunity, he and Erik have played floor hockey at a Boys and Girls Club.
“Some of these kids don’t get to play organized sports simply because they can’t afford it, or unfortunately their parents just don’t give a darn about them,” said Marsh. “It’s great to see them play floor hockey.
“When you see a little kid score a goal for the first time, the celebration is just like you’d see on an NHL player. In some cases it’s the first time they’ve ever celebrated something, if you will. And that’s what keeps us going. The kids.”
Marsh has taken a day off here and there to visit with family, including his mother in London, Ont., but otherwise he has spent most of his time on the pedals. The longest he has travelled in one day was nine hours and 15 minutes, “but the wind was right in our face and we only covered 209 kilometres,” he said.
“The most I’ve ridden in a day was 264 km, but the wind was at my back so that was fun,” added Marsh. “(Riding through) the mountains was neat, it was fun. You knew it was going to be hard. I put a lot of training miles in, and so you just get comfortable on your bike and you know you’re climbing a hill for 70 km. It was neat to accomplish that, climbing Rogers Pass and Coquihalla Pass (in B.C.), but Northern Ontario was unbelievably beautiful and unbelievably challenging for a bike rider. That was just a fabulous bike ride going around Lake Superior.”
While his stopover in Ottawa wasn’t long, he has to jet back from Fredericton June 11 for Victoria’s graduation.
“We forgot about it when we put the trip together,” chuckled Marsh, who was forced out of the bar/restaurant business in 2011. “It’s no secret that the last couple of years have not been favourable or kind to the Marsh family. But we’ve stayed close, we’ve stayed tight and we’re doing this together. And it’s been a riot.”
Marsh isn’t aware of the exact money raised to date, nor does he think it’s the most important fact of his mission.
“Yes I wish I could raise a gazillion dollars, but the bottom line is, the focus is awareness, because the Boys and Girls Club flies under the radar,” he said. “We’re fortunate here in Ottawa that we have an unbelievable team that supports the Boys and Girls Club, but across Canada that’s not the norm.
“The word is getting out. People, in the future, may choose to donate to the Boys and Girls Club, or more importantly they may choose to get involved in the leadership or mentorship role.”