COURAGE CANADA BLOG

Above and Beyond: The Support Continues - Aug 5
I woke up at Kakabeca Provincial Park and started out on an early skate en route to Upsala, ON, roughly 75KM from where I finished up yesterday.

Today the skating conditions were marked by long stretches of flat open road which was a real treat for me, and, I’m sure for the traffic behind me. The weather in the morning was perfect for skating. Some nice sunshine and warm, but, not hot weather made the morning pass by very smoothly.

I think that the theme for today had to be support. As always, the OPP support was superb; the officers who accompanied the team and I toady were very receptive of the campaign and happy to assist. The support that I received while on the road exceeded many other days, with several people handing out donations as they passed in their cars, and even one guy who tossed Cam a bottle of Gatorade which we all thought was really funny (and of course generous as well).

My lunch break today actually turned out to be very memorable for me. This afternoon marked my official crossing of the first time zone on this trip! I knew I had been skating for quite some time at this point, but, until we arrived, no one actualy told me that today would be the day that I made this pivotal stride along the route. Just around noon I skated in to the Savanne Portage at 90° Longitude West, officially entering into the Central Standard Time Zone! It was really cool for me to finally cross that border, especially considering that it’s the only border, so to speak, that I have gone over so far on the trip.

Getting back to today’s theme of support, the generosity of those who were stopped at the Savanne Portage was really overwhelming. A number of individuals, couples, and families came by to donate to Courage Canada and inquire about me and my Quest. One couple in particular, Wolfgang and Linda Fullbeck from Bright, Indiana really made an impact on the whole team, and left their mark on the trip as a whole. Wolfgang and Linda had been traveling in the U.S and much of Northwestern Canada for the past 68 days in their beautiful motor home and now after going as far north as Yukon and Alaska they are on their way back home trough Thunder Bay. P.J. and Jason talked with them for quite a while and shared stories about their travels, life on the road, and of course, about the Quest to the West. Before they headed off, aside from making a very generous donation, they gave us several pieces of walleye that they caught, some extra food that they had, and a RV travelers guide book which we’ve already used to arrange our accommodations for this evening. Thanks so much to both of you, you really made our day particularly memorable.

After a very, very wet skate this afternoon the team and I arrived at the Upsala Campground in the early evening to spend the night. The manager there was generous enough to offer a complimentary campsite for us, and the team and I settled in nicely. After yet another great dinner, the boys and I received some added support from one of the other campers on site. Christine Halvorsen and her son Aaron came by the RV to inquire about the campaign. Aaron is a 14-year-old goalie who is currently training for a spot on a Tripple-A team in Thunder Bay and both he and his sister wanted to make a donation. It was really nice to receive such awesome support from the younger generation, especially a guy like Aaron who is so into hockey.

That wonderful encounter basically wraps up the night, and sums up the excellent day of support that the team and I have seen. Thanks once again to everyone who contributed to the campaign today and in the past.

I am going to bed now with great thoughts on my mind. I’ve got a big day tomorrow starting at 8:30 am.

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Aug 06 2009 @ 12:35pm by Mark DeMontis

En Route to Raith - Aug 4
I started off this morning after my day-off feeling very fresh and well rested. Although, I was ready to get back on the skates it was a bit of a strange feeling for me once I laced up; after so many days of long and rigorous exercise I’m not used to having those days-off. It took a little bit of time for me to get my legs back once I finally got on the road but soon enough I was back in my stride and had a really solid skate this morning.

En route to Raith, ON the weather was quite cold and the winds started to pick up a fair bit as well. While it’s definitely nice to skate in some sun, I actually really enjoy the cool whether when I’m out on the road, I guess growing up in hockey rinks my whole life has gotten me accustom to that type of skating environment. The wind, on the other hand is something that I could do without, but, has just become one of those things that I’ve come to expect.

Of course I talk a fair bit about the great support that I’ve received on the road, but, today I had a moment with a gentleman that really stood out in my mind. On a roadside stop at a Can-op gas station a young guy named Aaron, who was probably around 20, came and knocked on the door of the RV. He had just finished a fishing trip and saw the RV and was interested in buying a Courage Canada hat. He mentioned that he always gave to charity as much as possible and that he was really happy to hear about my Quest and what I was doing.

After a good afternoon back out on the skates the team and I headed back to Kakabeca Provincial Park to spend the night. The beautiful Kakabeca falls is called the “Niagra of the North” and it was really nice to take a look at them before we settled in at our campsite.

Once we got organized and made a fire we cooked some excellent salmon and trout over the campfire and ate a delicious dinner.

Once again I am off to bed early so that I am ready to go in the morning.

Chat with you all tomorrow.

Cheers,
-Mark
Thu Aug 06 2009 @ 12:21pm by Mark DeMontis

T.E.A.M. : Together Everyone Achieves More - Aug 3
I woke up this morning with a different feeling than I normally do. Despite such an excellent night at the Ilczyszyn’s something just didn’t seem right. I was feeling really down, not only physically, but, mentally as well. It was a start to what looked like a bad day, and after much thought and consideration I decided that it would be wise to take the day off, and not start this Westward part of the trip off on a bad note.

While it always comes down to how I feel and my final say, what is often not talked about in the blogs is how my moods, feelings, and decisions effect the guys that are with me each and every day. My team has done so much over the past month to ensure that I am staying healthy and happy. A lot of work is done behind the scenes whether it is keeping the RV tidy (from dishes, to vacuuming, to taking out the garbage, and even dumping our bodily waste), filling up with gas, making sure there are cold waters in the fridge at all times, shopping for groceries, making food, doing laundry, taking pictures and filming, making phone calls, organizing police escorts, working with media, setting up events and places to sleep, sending emails, corresponding with our board members back home, making sure the social media pages are up to date, making sure we are sticking to our schedule, reaching out to the public, spreading the Courage Canada message, taking donations, and much more; my team, Jason, Cameron, and P.J. have all contributed tremendously to the success of this campaign so far.

Most of the blogs are about my experience on the road, but, I wanted this blog to be a little different. This journey is as much theirs as it is mine, and I thought it was time that all of you got a chance to hear a bit about how the journey has progressed for each of them.

This is the Quest to the West through the eyes of the guys:

JASON:

8:30 am, 7 September 2005, Writing 121, my first class of my first year at the University of Western Ontario. A well built, dark haired guy walks in to class almost late and saunters to the back row where I am sitting. He plops down next to me and almost immediately our Professor, Ted Kennedy speaks. “Throughout my 30 plus years of teaching I have found that there is a strong correlation between the students who sit in the back of the class and the lowest grades at the end of the semester.” Mark and I turn to each other and chuckle. I think it was at that moment when we first knew that the guy we were sitting next to would become a friend.

It wasn’t until about four hours after that as Mark and I were watching a friend of mine’s band perform on “Concrete Beach” that I actually found out that Mark was blind! I was totally shocked when he told me that he couldn’t see my friends fast fingers on his guitar let alone my own face and my features standing next to him. Over the next three years I learned so much about Mark, his life, and what it meant to him to be living with a visual impairment. In Mark’s case he was the exemplar of acceptance, perseverance, and drive and so when the first thoughts of Courage Canada started to surface early on in our third-year of University I was adamant about helping out as much as I could.

Now, two years in the making and countless hours spent planning and preparing by all those involved we’re out on the road. The Quest to the West is over a month deep and it’s honestly tough for me to describe just how incredible this experience has been so far. Simply put, the places I’ve been and the people that I’ve met have exceeded all expectations. Developing meaningful relationships with legends like Johnny Bower and Walter Gretzky, and spending time with Randy and Mr. Lahey from The Trailer Park Boys, along with so many other fine Canadians was something that I expected, but, never to such a great extent. Meeting new people on a daily basis from all parts of Canada and beyond has solidified the sheer generosity and kindness of the average person. It means so much to me to have every one of these individuals as part of the Quest.

As far as the more physical and visual elements of this adventure go, I am continually blown away by what I have seen so far, and can’t wait for what’s in store down the road. I marvel at the landscape that surrounds me every day; the lush trees, cascading mountains, rushing streams, crystal waters, and expanse of scenery have cast a completely new light on the beauty and grandeur of the country I live in.

Most importantly, the guys that I spend my days with have made every moment of this trip one to remember. From the deep personal conversations, to the side splitting moments, to the quiet chills in the RV, I relish the time that we spend together and cherish each individual moment. We certainly do go through some ups and downs, but, we go through them together, as a team. I know that each one of them has my back and I would do anything for them too. These boys, Cam, P.J., and Mark, occupy a spot so close to my heart, and I couldn’t imagine going though this journey with anyone else. Considering that my only sibling is my sister Erika, these three are as close to brother’s as I could ever have.

While Cam, P.J., and Mark are my personal support on the road, the support that comes from back home is something that has really meant a great deal to me. First and foremost, my family, both immediate and extended, have been there every step of the way. Whether it’s a phone call, a text message, an email, or so much as helping the team and I out with a place to stay my family has kept me feeling close to home and I can’t thank them enough for their support. Also, all of my friends have really kept me going through this past month; chatting with them on the phone and sending me messages; knowing that they’re behind me on this journey and rooting for me back home definitely brings out the true character and quality of those that I’m close to. I love you all, you are my flesh, you are my blood, you are my heart.

I hope that I have somewhat adequately captured how much this past month has changed my life and how much it will continue to impact me. This is an experience that I will share with my kids and my grandkids and will never forget. The only way to truly encapsulate the spirit of this endeavor is to say that it has been ‘magic’. I am genuinely excited to wake up to each new day and I couldn’t imagine doing anything more meaningful and exciting with my life right now.

Let’s keep rockin’ and rollin’...both literally and figuratively.
Peace,
Jason

CAMERON:

My experience so far has been incredible, it’s to hard to describe in words but something I would never change. It took over a year just to plan but I learned quickly that no matter how much planning went it you can never be prepared for the reality of the journey. Everyday I am learning something new, I’m constantly adapting and growing with every moment that passes.

I have developed a special bond with every member of our team. I consider each one of them to be a brother more than I consider them to be a friend. I know I can always turn to them for support and help no matter the situation from the smallest problem to my deepest secrets. I would trust any of one of them with my life and I know they all feel the same way. It is something I know I will never forget no matter what the road ahead may bring. Together we have shared in some of the greatest moments of my life. Whether it is the quiet unspoken moments gazing into some of the most beautiful scenery Canada has to offer, or the late night talks in the RV that has me laughing for days, it really is special and unforgettable.

Mark has shown me things I never thought I would see in another human being. His perseverance and drive motivates me to be a better person day in and day out. He always finds the time to talk and help out anybody he comes across on the road, no matter how tired and or mentally drained he may be. He has shown me that with a dream and a goal anything is possible. I now understand that one person can make a difference and what a difference he is making.

I am blown away by the generosity and support that people show us on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if it a honk or a wave of a passerby or words of support from my friends and family back home. Everyday it brings a smile to my face, and that smile keeps on growing with every passing moment. I truly must say thank you to everybody and I wanted to share with you how special it really is to me.

To Mark, Pj and Jason, I want to thank you guys for making this the most memorable time of my life. Thank you to everybody that has been a part of this campaign, no matter how big or small of a role you may have played, just a simple wave or smile makes an incredible difference that many people may simply over look. I have taken notice.

Once again thank you, and lets keep the good times rolling,

Cameron

PJ:

Currently, I am sitting by Kabeka falls 35 km west of Thunder Bay in northern ON. Sitting and listening to the falls crash down and flow into the creek while I take a moment to rest, has allowed me to collect my thoughts. Mark has suggested that we (myself, Jason, and Cameron) write down our thoughts and feeling with regards to the campaign so far, I will try and find the words to express what has been something more than I ever could have anticipated…

Hockey is something that has always been important to me, so from the very beginning I have felt emotionally charged by the passion that Mark has shown and the shear determination he has to bring hockey to blind youth across Canada. Mark’s personal story and the effort that he puts forth towards reaching his goal on a regular basis has inspired me to become a part of this great story and find the strength within myself to reach my own goals.

Each and everyday life on the road has allowed me to learn something new about myself and grow from that experience. As most of you know we are living out of an RV-motor home while traveling on the road through five provinces, from Toronto to Vancouver. During the days Mark skates along with a team member while the RV follows closely behind, during the nights we most often park at a camp ground, eat dinner and spend the night there. Due to the nature of this campaign we live together in close quarters and have had to adapt to differing personalities, this has been a challenge at times though I am proud to say that I feel privileged to grow along side great individuals and be able to share such an amazing journey.

The scenery up here has been breathtaking and I am surprised that there is not more talk about the vast beauty of northern Ontario coming from Toronto. Many moments are enjoyed by taking in the view of a great lake or a distant small mountain. Animal life is abundant up here and I have had the fortune to witness two moose hanging out side by side along the road en route to Thunder Bay. Recently, while skating I peered into a quarry and spotted a black bear standing on his two hind legs and smile as we skated by (at least I like to believe that it was a smile...). All types of birds from ravens to falcons soar around the sky in search of their prey. Surprisingly, the mosquitos haven’t been too pesky!

I feel as though from the moment Mark asked me to be a part of the team, I have gained so many great memories. In particular, two memories that come to mind include the evening in Gravenhurst where we were able to enjoy hanging out with Randy and Mr. Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys. And, having the pleasure of getting to know Walter Gretzky, he is a man I will always admire. The level of friendliness has shined from people outside major cities, and we have become friends with so many people and have created memories that will never be forgotten…thank you for your continued support. To my immediate and extended family and all my friends cheers and thank you for showing your love and support as well (it means so much). To Mark, Cameron and Jason, you guys have become my adopted family- all I can say is that I look forward to what lies on the roads up ahead!!!
Peace,
All the best-

PJ.
Thu Aug 06 2009 @ 12:14pm by Mark DeMontis

Family - Aug 2
I started from the Terry Fox Memorial in the morning with the incredible spirit of Terry and his accomplishments fresh in my mind. Skating through Thunder Bay and towards the Westward stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway I got the feeling like I had completed another major section of my journey. Despite the fact that I am still a couple weeks away from being out of Ontario, the feeling I got this morning was similar to finishing the Southwestern tour (“training camp” as I called it) and starting to head North (“the regular season”). While I know I am still far away from the playoffs it was a really big moment for me on this trip to make the big left hand turn on Highway #17 and officially start to head West.

I made a point to stop for around 20 minutes to take it all in and really enjoy the moment. I called my parents and a few friends so that they could share this feeling along with me, and it honestly made me a little sad knowing that they weren’t by my side at the time. Nevertheless, enjoying the improved cell phone reception helped me get as close to being with them as possible out here.

Unlike yesterday, where I felt like my reward for having battled through the stretch from Sault Ste Marie to Thunder bay was arriving at the Terry Fox Monument, today I was rewarded differently. As I have mentioned before, the chunk of highway from The Soo to T-Bay has a massive amount of long steep hills, and the cold weather and frequent rain didn’t make the trek any easier. Today, however, as soon as I turned West on the Trans-Canada Highway I stared down a long, straight, flat, smooth stretch of road that just melted my heart. Combined with some beautiful sunshine and much needed warm weather I had an incredible afternoon of skating and got a lot of kilometers out of the way.

After I finished my skate for the day the team and I travelled back to Thunder Bay to meet up with the Ilczyszyn family who we met at Retrofest last week. Tom and Connie had chatted with me a bunch at Retrofest and were nice enough to come out to the Terry Fox Memorial yesterday evening to welcome me back to Thunder Bay.

Tom, Connie, and their son Aaron invited the boys and I to come and have dinner and stay at their place tonight, and all of us were honestly thrilled to get a chance to spend some quality time with some Thunder Bay locals. It’s interesting because spending time with the Ilczyszyn family started to reminded me a lot of my own family. Their genuine kindness, generosity, and warmth really shone through and it was a real treat to get to spend the evening with them.

Hanging out with them actually made me really start to miss my own parents quite a bit. It made me reflect on my life, my time spent with my parents, and all of the great things I did with them growing up. From camping to fishing to attending sporting events, it really helped me appreciate my upbringing and the close relationship that I have with my family. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them and all they have done to help me on this journey, and the ways in which they guided me through life as a kid and as a young adult. They have stood by me through the bad times and the good and I want them to know how important they are to me and how much they have helped to shape me as a human being; teaching me the value of good friends, good morals, good manners, good food, and of course, good family! Most importantly, my parents have taught me to be proud of who I am and where I’m from; to be proud of my heritage my roots, and how I was brought on to this earth.

Getting back to the night that just passed, hanging out at the Ilczyszyn family farm (no longer used for farming), all I can say is that the whole evening was so much more than I could have ever expected. They were so gracious and welcoming and they really made the whole team’s time in Thunder Bay memorable. Upon our arrival we got toured around their farm in a buggy attached to Tom’s ATV, and afterwards we all got to take the ATV out for a little spin (myself included)! One of the highlights of the evening for me had to be driving Tom’s tractor, something that I’ve always wanted to do as a kid (I’ve got the video to prove it). It was really awesome for us city boys to let loose in the country for a bit (not like we haven’t been pretty deep in the bush for the past while), and to get the opportunity to really engage with a local family on their home turf.

After getting acquainted with the property we ate an incredible steak dinner, accompanied by a mass of delicious side dishes. From cesar salad, to rice, potatoes, veggies, ribs, pickles, and another one of my all time favourite foods, perogies! After our bellies were way beyond full Tom, Connie, Aaron, P.J., Jason, Cam, and Myself sat around the fire pit chatting, singing songs, sharing stories and carrying out the night.

We have met so many great people along the way, but this family has really gone above and beyond. They went out of their way to show their great support for the campaign at our events, and by extending their hospitality to us in their home they made our stop in Thunder Bay a part of the journey that we will never forget! Thanks so much once again, you guys, for all you have done. You are a truly special bunch.

Now that I am well fed and well entertained it’s time for me to get some much needed rest.

Speak to you all tomorrow.

Cheers,
-Mark
Mon Aug 03 2009 @ 10:36pm by Mark DeMontis

A Day I’ll Never Forget - Aug 1
I awoke this morning at Wolf River Park feeling different from how I normally do. Despite following my regular daily routine I knew that today was not like any other on my Quest. Today was special. Today was a day to remember. Today was the day that I was to arrive at the Monument that commemorates the life of my biggest hero.

I had lots to think about on my skate as I pushed closer and closer towards the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout. Today turned out to be the toughest day of the entire trip so far. The wind was cold and hard, the rain was intense, my feet and my body were soaked to the bone, and throughout my entire skate the memory of Terry and of his intense battle through this stretch of Ontario stayed on my mind and truly helped me battle through the difficult conditions. Also, knowing that Terry and I were diagnosed with our respective conditions around the same age, and both embarked on our journey’s at 22 helped to keep me motivated through the late parts of this afternoon.

I made two very meaningful stops along the road this afternoon. The first stop was the exact spot where Terry Fox was forced to stop his Marathon of Hope on 1 September 1980, after learning that cancer had spread to his lungs. Born on 28 July 1958 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Terrance Stanley Fox grew up in Port Coquitlam, outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. After being diagnosed with osteogenetic sarcoma in 1977, Terry began his Marathon Of Hope on 12 April 1980 in St. John’s , Newfoundland (running over 26 miles per day on just one leg). Terry travelled an unbelievable 3,339 miles in the span of 143 days. He passed away on 28 June 1981 exactly one month before his 23rd birthday.

This afternoon I stood at the exact spot, mile number 3,339, where my hero ended his legendary journey. The rush of emotions that I experienced as I walked up to the small clearing on the side of the Trans Canada Highway is something that I cannot describe. I touched a plaque that was dedicated to Terry Fox in 2005, commemorating the 25th anniversary of his Marathon Of Hope. It was a very special moment for me to be standing at that plaque because I was honoured as a National Terry Fox Scholar the same year. I spent a few quiet moments by myself in the clearing before getting back on the road to complete the final 10KM to the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout just outside of Thunder Bay.

Just before taking off from the site I pinned a Terry Fox Run for Cancer pin to my jersey, keeping him and his strength close to my heart as I skated the hardest 10KM of my trip.

As I pushed up the long hill towards the Monument shortly after 7PM the magnitude of the moment hit me hard. I had been going over this event in my head for such a long time now. Anticipating those final strides, wanting and wishing I knew how it would feel to stand next to the famous statue that I had seen so many times in books and on my computer; once I finally arrived I was beyond feeling, I was beyond words. I felt both honoured and humbled to be as close to Terry Fox as I could be. Once again, I took a personal moment to embrace the experience, to savour the feeling, to say a few words to Terry. I thought about how far Terry had come on his journey in 1980 and about the progression of my own Quest. On the Terry Fox Monument a quote of his reads, “Dreams are made if people only try...” While everybody’s dreams are likely a little different, Terry’s determination in following his dream has truly helped to give me the strength to pursue mine. Before my departure I whispered to Terry, “You are a true Canadian hero.” Thank you for inspiring me to live up to my full potential and do the best I can to ensure that my actions benefit those other than myself.
While at the Terry Fox Memorial I got a chance to meet with members of the Thunder Bay Lions Club, speak with a reporter from the Chronicle Journal, and also catch up with a few nice families I had met last weekend at Retrofest, who came out to show their support. Others who were visiting the memorial at the same time were quite interested to learn about my Quest and what I was hoping to achieve. I met people from Quebec, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Ontario and received a lot of fantastic support from all of them. Thank you to everyone who took time out of their busy day to come and show their support. It was wonderful to get to share such an important moment on my Quest and in my life with all of you.

After leaving the Monument I headed out to eat my favourite food in the world, something that I had been craving since I last had it almost a month ago in London, sushi! The whole team joined me and were all equally excited to get a taste of something that you can’t find so easily around this part of the province.

After dinner we checked in to the Best Western Hotel (one of our newest campaign supporters), who accommodated us for the evening. I enjoyed a relaxing night on my own, reminiscing about the great day that had past, and taking time to mentally prepare for the next part of my journey. I checked some emails, listened to some music, and caught a few episodes of one of my favourite TV shows, Friends.

As I was drifting off to sleep another great Terry Fox quote came to mind. If I remember correctly, it was something he said while outside of Ottawa, ON, on his Marathon of Hope. “It isn't easy and it isn't supposed to be” he said, “but I'm accomplishing something.” I embarked on my Quest to the West with this same frame of mind and it is this type of attitude that will no doubt carry me all the way to Vancouver, B.C.

Goodnight Terry. Goodnight Canada.

Cheers,
-Mark
Sun Aug 02 2009 @ 4:42pm by Mark DeMontis

Highway of Hope - July 31
I woke up this morning at Stillwater Park and got my day off to a pretty decent start. The past few weeks since Sault Ste Marie have been very long and tiring and starting to catch up with me a bit. I am trying hard to get to get lots of rest, and I am certainly eating well, but, the long hills and the constant rain have been very draining. With that said, I’m only a day away from Thunder Bay, and will battle all the way to the Terry Fox Memorial this Saturday, and I will not stop until I reach Vancouver.

I took my afternoon break in Nipigon, ON, had a well needed rest, and took the opportunity to stock up on more water.

As soon as I started out in the afternoon I hit the 100KM stretch of Highway #17 called the Terry Fox Courage Highway. Hitting this bit of road got me pumped up to get to his Memorial tomorrow evening, and helped me push through a rainy afternoon.

While I have mentioned lots about the vastness of the scenery along Lake Superior I haven’t talked so much about the more immediate things that strike me along the road. Because of my lack of eyesight I rely greatly on what I hear to better understand my surroundings. The rushing streams and the rivers that pass under the highway are two elements of the landscape that tend to stick out to me as I roll along. Apart from the sound of the cars passing, the stillness of the country, the rustling of the leaves, the chirping of the birds, and the rushing waters are all very serene and soothing.

The team and I arrived at Wolf River Park at night, a well maintained campground around 79KM away from the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout. The owners, Stephen and Patricia Behune were generous enough to donate our accommodations for the night. After getting settled in we ate a great dinner, one of my favourite meals that my dad makes, chicken in mushroom sauce.

Shortly before I hit the hay I spoke to a good buddy of mine, Paul Kerrins, who is heading off to Troy, N.Y. in a few days to play his senior year of Division-1 hockey at RPI. He was hosting a big going away party in Weston and I got a chance to catch up with a lot of my friends from back home on my cell. I must admit that I was a little sad to not be there with everybody, but, at the same time speaking to everyone and hearing how much I was on their minds was an awesome feeling. Paul told me that tons of people at the party were also rocking the new Courage Canada hat which put a big smile on my face, knowing how much great support I’ve got coming from back home.

Speaking of great support from back home, my local paper The York Guardian, has been doing a weekly update on my Quest to the West; it focuses on how I’m doing, where I have been, and special things that I’ve done. I am so appreciative for all of the ongoing media coverage, but, having the backing of those close to home and to my heart really mean a lot. I’ve also got to give a special thanks to “Grandpa Ken’s Back Bacon” for all of their help raising money and awareness for Courage Canada at the Weston Farmer’s Market. The Liscio family has done such tremendous things for this organization and I want them to know that their ongoing support truly means a lot.

As I skate closer and closer to the Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay, ON, my anticipation to arrive just keeps on growing. Rolling along the Terry Terry Fox Courage Highway, knowing that I am so close to a pinnacle point of this journey, I am increasingly curious as to how I will react once I get there. I feel like it will be one of the most moving experiences thus far, and I hope that there will be lots of local and national support as I skate in to such a well known landmark. TBTV did a big segment on Courage Canada and myself on the 6 o’clock news tonight, leading up to my arrival in Thunder Bay, so I hope that that will bring out lots more of the local community. I also know that there will be quite a few Lions there to greet me, which will be great as it’s been a few days since I’ve hung out with my Lion friends.

I know that the early bird gets the worm, so, I will be up tomorrow at 6AM, gearing up for the biggest days not only on this journey, but, of my life.

See you all the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout tomorrow at 7PM!

Cheers,
-Mark
Sat Aug 01 2009 @ 2:44pm by Mark DeMontis

A Small Town Stride- July 30
This morning I woke up at the Aguasabon Campground in Terrace Bay and met up with OPP Constable Carol Judson after a quick breakfast.

The morning skate went very smoothly and I was happy to take a break in the pretty little town of Rossport, ON, a town of only 100 people, in the early afternoon.

The team and I ate a delicious lunch at the Serendipity Gardens Cafe, a cozy restaurant overlooking the Rossport Harbour that was founded in 1988. Our friendly waitress, Prina, an Italian lady who grew up in Thunder Bay, talked to us about the history of the small fishing village, once notorious for its Lamprey eel, and, about living in a small town in Norther Ontario.

While on my break in Rossport I got a chance to catch up with Walter Gretzky on the phone. Walter was just about to tee off at a golf tournament in Victoria B.C. He was really excited to hear from me and, as always, it was great to talk with him. He told me that he was spreading the word about Courage Canada on the West Coast and that he was rooting for me on the road.

The team and I joined up with OPP Officer Mike Costa in the afternoon and hit the slippery rain soaked roads, tackling some more very long hills, both up and down.

As I skated along I noticed even more the vastness of the landscape and the incredible scenery that surrounded me. I am fairly high up right now in relation to Lake Superior and so looking out from on top of the Lake allows even me to see forever.

The team and I arrived in Nipigon, ON tonight and stayed at the Stillwater Park after grabbing a bite at the Nipigon Cafe. We met a very nice elderly couple, Lloyd and Florence, who suggested we stop at the Nipigon Cafe for dinner. Interestingly enough Lloyd and Florence’s son in law actually trains a blind skier who is set to compete in the Paralympics this winter.

I have been thinking a lot about Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope as I am now just two days away from my arrival at the Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay. Just having his story on my mind keeps me motivated and gets me really excited to get to Thunder Bay and then to keep on going towards the Manitoba boarder.

Once again, I hope that everyone reading in the Thunder Bay and surrounding area will come out on Saturday (Aug 1) to the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout at 7PM! I am really looking forward to meeting more of the Thunder Bay community and sharing my story with all of you. Also, you will be able to purchase the brand new Courage Canada HATS on site!!

If you can’t make it out on Saturday or for those of you reading from other area’s of Canada and the World, Courage Canada Hats will be available to buy at www.couragecanada.ca sometime next week!!

Keep checking for more exclusive Courage Canada merchandise to come.

Visit the website and Ebay.com http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320404609406&_trkparms=tab%3DSelling to bid on an Autographed Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers Jersey with 100% of the money going straight to Courage Canada!!

Also, stay tuned to the Courage Canada YouTube channel to see my Ontario Recap video log which will go up this weekend!

See you all in Thunder Bay on Saturday!

Let’s hope the weather stays in our favour.

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Jul 31 2009 @ 2:43pm by Mark DeMontis

Blading to the Bay- July 29
Today (July 29) I woke up bright and early and started on the road with our friend OPP Officer Peter Burton.

I was noticing that I was really well rested this morning and my legs were feeling in great shape. I went to bed much earlier than normal last night and I think that making sure I am getting in to bed on the earlier side of things is going to really benefit me as I get further along in my Quest.

After a solid 40KM in the morning I took a break at Steel River, had lunch and rested up for a big afternoon on the skates.

I got back on the road around 4:30PM with a new OPP escort, Carol Judson. As soon as I took off in the afternoon I tackled two huge hills. Each of these monsters were over a couple kilometers long and quite steep as well. As hard as it is sometimes to start off a skate on a big hill it is also very rewarding to get them out of the way early on. In many ways the skate seems to feel much lighter after that.

I arrived in the beautiful town of Terrace Bay in the early evening and was greeted by Lion Bob and some locals as well. One man, Bruce, was actually waiting on the side of the highway with his camera and had just finished a 6-day kayak trip from Thunder Bay. Terrace Bay is an incredibly nice town, right on the waters of Lake Superior (appropriately named “The Gem of the North Shore”). After a well needed meal we headed over to Aguasabon Campground, right by the scenic Casque Isle Falls, where the Lions Club of Terrace Bay had generously arranged accommodations for the team and I.

As I was pulling in to the park I got a call from one of my life long friends Daniel. It was great to hear from someone who has been such a big part of my life for so long, through good times and bad. We talked about some of the funnier experiences that I’ve had so far on the road and about how things were going back home. Speaking with Daniel really motivated me to keep going, and made me look forward to spending lots of good times with him next year.

Just as I was about to sign off here, I received a call from Chris Delaney. It’s always nice to get on the phone with Chris and meddle over the way things are going. We chatted again about how we met and how crazy it is that our paths crossed at just the right time. Thinking back to when we first met we never thought I would be where I am today, living out my dream. Chris also shared his memories of when he passed through Terrace Bay on his Cross-Canada journey, and how beautiful of an are it is. Chris has provided me with so much useful insight both leading up to and while on my Quest, and just like Daniel, Chris really helps keep me motivated and on top of my game.

I’m calling it an early night and I’m looking forward to another early morning. I am now just over 200KM from Thunder Bay, ON where I will arrive at the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout this Saturday at 7PM.

Also, some big news for Courage Canada, and our supporters. The Autographed Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers Jersey is back up for sale on Ebay! The gentleman who originally won it was nice enough to re-donate the jersey, with all of the money going straight to Courage Canada! Please check out http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=320404609406&_trkparms=tab%3DSelling and help support the development of blind youth hockey in communities all across Canada.

Chat soon.

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Jul 31 2009 @ 2:37pm by Mark DeMontis

New Friends up North - July 28
Today (July 28) I travelled towards Marathon after spending the night at Penn Lake Park.

First thing in the morning I headed over to the CFNO Radio studio to do a live interview with Al Crestwell. It was great to meet Al and get on a station that is listened to by so many between White River and Longlac. I really enjoy doing live radio so this got my morning off to a great start.

The team and I ate breakfast with our good friend OPP Officer Peter Burton and three other members of the OPP. We had a great time sharing stories and telling jokes. Thanks once again to OPP Officer Burton for taking such good care of the team and I over the past two days.

I broke for the afternoon in the parking lot of the Extra Food Mart in Marathon. I met with Mayor Rick Dumas, and many locals who offered some really kind words of encouragement. It was a real pleasure meeting with the Burk family who came out to show their support. The Burk’s have several children who are blind Paralympic athletes, and their son, Tyler, who I met, is actually a member of the National Goal Ball Program as well as a former student of the W. Ross Macdonald School for the Blind in Brantford. It was really nice to connect with such an interesting and ambitious family. They really inspired me and I hope to connect with them in the future to help further promote blind athletics in Canada.

After skating out the rest of the afternoon the team and I spent the night at Neys Provincial Park just outside of Marathon. Neys was one of the most scenic provincial parks we have stayed at thus far. Our campsite was located right on the waters of Lake Superior, and the sandy beach strewn with washed up trees and bits of wood was really cool. I met a nice family who’s campsite was beside ours. We chatted with them for a while and they helped us with our fire that we used to cook up some great shrimp for dinner.

I’m totally exhausted and looking forward to an early sleep! I think the team is going to head out to hang by the fire and make smores.

Speak to you all tomorrow. Goodnight.

Cheers,
-Mark
Fri Jul 31 2009 @ 2:36pm by Mark DeMontis

One Month - July 27
I skated today from White River towards Marathon, ON feeling well rested from a relaxing and successful weekend in Thunder Bay. It took a little bit to get my legs back while on the road, being that these past two days were the first I had not gotten on the skates in over a month.

Today was very special to me as it was the one month mark of my Quest to the West! It is pretty wild to think that it was only 30 days ago that I set off from the Weston Lions Arena in my hometown of Toronto.

Since my departure I have seen so much of Ontario; the province I have lived in all of my life, but, never truly got to experience until now. Thus far I have skated through: Port Credit, Mississauga/ Streetsville, Burlington, Ancaster, Brantford, Woodstock, London, St. Mary’s, Guelph, Woodbridge, Barrie, Orillia, Gravenhurst, Mactier, Parry Sound, Britt, Sudbury, Massey, Blind River, Thessalon, Sault Ste Marie, Montreal River Harbour, Wawa, and White River, and everywhere in between. Since day one I have met so many incredible people, seen so many great places, and received such an overwhelming amount of support!

As of today I have travelled nearly 1,571KM across Ontario. I have been able to work my way up to comfortably and consistently cover 75KM per day. 75Km is equal to 75,000m per day; thats 135.54 times the length of the CN tower, 187.5 laps around an Olympic size track, 1,250 lengths on a regulation size Olympic Ice Hockey rink, and 36,407.77 times the height of 6‘9’’ Zdeno Chara (the tallest player in the NHL)!

Crunching some of these numbers has made me think of how crazy, and how cool, what I am doing really is. I hear it a lot from others, “Gosh Mark I can’t believe what your doing!”, “Wow, this is so crazy!”, and to tell you the truth I have known for a long time now that this is something that I not only want to do, but, need to do in many ways. I have been anticipating my Quest to the West for nearly two years now, but, the extent of what I am seeking to achieve has really hit home at this point.

Everyday I wake up with a goal in mind. Everyday I travel to new places across Canada and meet new people. Everyday I share my story with complete strangers who often become my friends. Everyday I feel as though I am doing something good, not just for myself, but, for blind youth all across Canada.

I am inline-skating 5000KM so that other young people like myself can grow up loving our nations game. This past month skating on the open road has given me the opportunity to find the myself in many ways. It has given me to chance to find the Mark DeMontis I never knew. An individual with a lot of strengths, who is very personable, very appreciative, and truly does have courage.

I want to thank everyone who continues to come out to events, write me messages, make donations, offer words of encouragement on the road, honk their horns, clap their hands, give me thumbs up and who continually add to the success of my journey thus far. You have all touched me deeply and I hope that my story has also touched you. This past month has been the best of my entire life, and I hope that in the next few months to come the support will grow and my memories will flourish as I skate closer towards Vancouver, B.C.

I will arrive at GM Place in downtown Vancouver on Friday, September 25, 2009. I will finish my Quest just the way I started. With my head held high, my skates laced tight, my stick in hand, my jersey worn proudly and my three buddies Jason, Cam, and P.J. by my side. I will live out my dream.


See it happen!

Cheers,
-Mark
Tue Jul 28 2009 @ 7:35pm by Mark DeMontis

<< Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next >>


HOME    •     ABOUT US    •     PROGRAMS    •     MEDIA    •     GET INVOLVED    •     STORE    •     CONTACT    •     FACEBOOK    •     TWITTER    •     YOUTUBE