In 1994, I was involved in an incident in Ottawa where I was stabbed thirteen times. I suffered two severe leg injuries and ten wounds on my back. The muscle in my leg had to be reconstructed as the muscle was torn in two. After the surgery was over, I had a doctor assess me and was told I would always have problems walking and never would be able to run. For 16 years after this incident, I suffered with severe PTSD and used my injuries as an excuse to be lazy.
In 2007, a very close friend of mine was serving with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and he was so excited because they were opening a Tim Hortons on the base for them. I asked him if they had to pay for the food and coffee and he said yes. My reply was, “Not anymore.”
I started a small Facebook group called Tim Hortons For Our Troops and asked people to send the paper gift certificates with a message of thanks on the back of them. Within a few days, it had about 3000 members and was spreading like wildfire. VOCM News in Newfoundland did a story on it and that’s when things went crazy. I contacted the MFRC in Toronto and they gave out their address as a place where people could send the messages and they would have them delivered. CITY NEWS in Toronto then picked this story up and within the first year we had sent over $100,000 in free coffee to soldiers with messages of support on the back of them.
I started to receive a lot of messages asking for pen pals from civilians which I gladly set people up with. This turned into a new mission of its own, and within a few months I had set up over 2000 people, including ten elementary schools, as pen pals with soldiers overseas. We also introduced military families to each other, fellow soldiers with each other and, most importantly, families of fallen soldiers were meeting each other through this page to help each other grieve.
This page now has over 150,000 members from all over the world and still going strong.
In 2010, I decided to start “The Gratitude Project” which encouraged people to send a photo holding a Thank You sign. I would put them together in a YouTube video and do my best to make sure that our troops would see them. Well, we received enough photos to make ten YouTube videos featuring people from every corner of the world. The biggest shock was opening my email inbox and seeing a photo from Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed.
After Gene posted about my page, every metal and rock band that came to Calgary would send tickets for me to bring veterans to their shows. I got to bring veterans to Kiss, Motley Crue, Megadeth, Ozzy, Iron Maiden, Black Label Society, etc. A lot of the veterans had PTSD so these nights out meant more to them than can be put into words.
I met my wife in 2012 and we had a beautiful daughter together in 2014; this was my wake-up call to go and talk to someone about my mental health and I am very thankful that I did.
I believe the reason I was spared that night in 1994 was to become a father and a husband. These are the two greatest things that have ever happened to me and my number one reason for starting my weight loss journey. I want to be around when my daughter graduates and gets married way, way, way down the road.
Since my incident in 1994, I have always tried to pay it back to those that saved my life that night and I felt pretty good about accomplishing that up to this point but this was just the beginning. In 2018, I was at a park with our daughter who was four at the time. She wanted to race me home from the playground but I said, “I’m sorry sweetie, Daddy can’t run.” The look of disappointment on her face I will never forget as long as I live.
I decided that was enough and promised myself I would lose 100 pounds in 2019, one way or another. I needed something to keep me motivated so I pledged online that I would donate $1 per pound that I lost in the year to Vets Canada. A group I have worked very closely with over the years that gets homeless veterans off the streets and assists veterans who are struggling. In November of 2019, I hit my 100-pound weight loss goal and several others matched my $100 donation. In total, we were able to raise $750.00 for this organization.
I wanted to keep going so I pledged that I would lose another 50 pounds by the end of 2020 and donate the money to Can Praxis which is a horse therapy program that assists veterans and first responders with PTSD through the use of horses. This is where things really changed.
Seven weeks ago, I was on a CALGARY ROAST AND TOAST page and I posted a thank you to two guys who were making fun of the first time I tried a gym about a year before. I was on an exercise bike and there were two guys behind me on the treadmill. I could hear them referring to the back of my neck as a package of sausages and laughing very loudly. Those guys lit a fire under me and although it messed me up for a while, it eventually was used as motivation.
I was contacted by the owners at Southpaw Boxing Gym in Calgary who saw my story and offered me a year membership and training to hit my goals. Boxing has changed my life; after struggling with PTSD for 16 years, this place has been a Godsend. They are truly a family – right from the owners to the trainers and all the members; I have never had so much support in my life.
The owners told me about their “Chump To Champ” program and instantly I thought this could be my final way to pay it back to the first responders who saved my life. I decided to join and my first fight was supposed to be in April 2020 (postponed due to COVID). I started a Go Fund me page and will be splitting 100% of the donations between my two favourite charities: Vets Canada and Can Praxis. It was a fight that originally got me in to this situation and it will be a fight that will close the door on it for me.
Since I started boxing training, I’ve had a lot of people say:
“You’re too old for that.”
“You’ll never keep up with the training.”
“That is way too intense for you.”
Well, I love when people tell me I can’t do something as that’s what has been lighting my fire for years. Two weeks ago, one of my trainers had me running on a treadmill for four minutes straight. (Something I hadn’t done in 26 years!)
Too old? Too intense? We’ll see about that.
See you in the ring.