COLD LAKE – So far, $26,709 has been raised by the second annual Skijoring for MS: Riding Towards a Cure event, with more dollars continuing to roll in for the MS Society of Canada.
The family-friendly event kicked off with a pancake breakfast and included a full afternoon of skijoring activities at Cold Lake Ag Society’s Exhibition Park grounds on Saturday.
Throughout the day, 38 teams made up of riders and sliders had the opportunity to compete in three events: Big Air Freestyle, Circuit and Sprint.
The Circuit event, which is a timed run through various features and obstacles, had some contestants taking their time to complete each feature, while the horsepower on other teams caused some sliders to get left behind.
In the 100 metre Sprint event, snow was flying, and sliders were making sure not to lose their grip of the rope during head-to-head heats.
But the greatest stunts were saved for last during the Big Air Freestyle event.
“Circuits are fun because there are wrecks all over the place. The sprint is fun because it's fast... But the Big Air, that's the big draw,” said James Purdy, event organizer with Team MS Ain’t Purdy.
While fewer teams competed in the Big Air Freestyle event, several skiers and snowboarders showed the crowd they could land – and almost land – a variety of flips, spins, and grabs generated from horsepower alone.
“If it's not dangerous, if people aren’t on the verge of breaking something, nobody wants to watch it,” laughed Purdy. “And so, we've been putting that together somewhat safely.”
Supporting the MS Society
After 14 years of raising funds for the MS Society of Canada, Team MS Ain’t Purdy has raised almost $700,000 for the cause. The team is made up of Purdy’s family and close friends.
In the fall of 2008, Purdy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease where the immune system attacks nerve fibers and other related cells.
Since then, Purdy and a group of supporters have raised between $30,000 to $40,000 every year for the MS Society. Funds go towards research and improving quality of life for those diagnosed with MS.
“If we don't promote the research, we are never going to end MS either,” said Purdy. "A big focus is sending money for research... There have already been great strides in the different medications that are being used because of this type of research.”
It may surprise many to know that research for MS is being carried out in Canada and Alberta, including at the University of Alberta, noted Purdy.
Raising awareness and fighting stigma
“When I got diagnosed with MS, I didn’t tell anyone. The only people who knew were my wife, my family, and maybe my direct supervisor, but that was it,” recalled Purdy. “Because I was healthy, I didn’t want anyone else to know... I could manage it on my own.”
So, the young family agreed to keep the diagnosis quiet. But not long after his diagnosis, he would learn of the 2009 MS Walk taking place in St. Paul over the radio.
Purdy knew that he could easily raise money for the event with the help of friends, family and acquaintances – but he would have to share the one thing he didn’t want to.
“In the spring of 2009, I sent out my first email to about 100 people.” Purdy could not believe the support he received from those around him.
“It was nuts, I think we raised $20,000 that first year,” he said.
Since opening up about his own experiences with MS, Purdy has found a new way of connecting and helping others through times that are difficult.
“You can’t help others if they don't know you're going through it yourself,” he said, describing why he feels it is so important to raise awareness about the disease.
“I'm happy to show that you don't have to be in a wheelchair with MS and that's just because I'm lucky. I'm not doing anything different than somebody who is in a wheelchair,” said Purdy.
“I'm just fortunate, and who knows how the future may go. But right now, while I'm healthy, I'm going to do everything I can to raise piles of money to try and find a cure to end MS.”
Circuit event – Russ and Derek Griffith
Big Air event – Griffin Purdy and Alex Young
First Place - Norah Benoit and Tory Mahe
Second Place – Tim Hiller and Seth Hiller
Iron Man (time combined competing as a ride and slider)
First Place – Jeff Hallwachs (68.41 sec)
Second Place – Shae Worthington (153.61 sec)
First Place – Hailey Lobe and Ethan Lessard (6.82 sec)
Second Place – Chase Soderburg and Dustin Collette (7.76 sec)
Best aggregate time
First Place – Josh Leslie and Darcy Pashak (26.45 sec)
Second Place –Tim Hiller and Seth Hiller (28.46 sec)
Fastest Circuit run
First Place – Hailey Lobe and Ethan Lessard (20.1 sec)
Second Place – Iris Dort and Ethan Lessard (20.63 sec)
Third Place – Amy Krywolt and Maddy Mawson (24.57 sec)
First Place – James Purdy and Nathan Taylor (17.07 sec)
Second Place – Russ Griffith and Dan Iverson
First Place – Josh Leslie and Darcy Pashak (12.59 sec)
Second Place – Tim Hiller and Seth Hiller (12.68 sec)
Third Place – Jeff Hallwachs and Sam Wheeler (13.29 sec)
First Place – Dawson Walker (Score of 90), Scott Makay
Second Place – Ethan Lessard (Score of 86), Hailey Lobe
Third Place – Alex Young (Score of 85.5), Griffin Purdy