Saturday, June 9, 2012

Warm Welcomes

Team Marsh is picture perfect!

Any time you’re away from home for a long stretch of time, it doesn’t matter what you miss about home in particular, when its boils down to it its really just a feeling of belonging. It’s the feeling of being comfortable putting your feet up on the coffee table and watching whatever you want on TV. It’s the feeling of walking into the kitchen and grabbing a snack. It’s the caring people around you that greet you with a smile and ask you how your day was. On the road it can get hard. You’re away from loved ones and friends and its hard to find a time and place where you can truly comfortably relax. It can wear you down mentally and make it hard to keep on going.

Luckily for us we’ve met up with some amazing people along the way that have gone out of their way to make us feel at home even though its been well over a month since we’ve been in Ottawa. When we rolled into Toronto ahead of schedule we called up my cousin Melissa and she and her husband Mark rolled out the red carpet for us. They had a comfortable place for Erik, Tory and I all to sleep and an incredible dinner on the table. We had a great time at dinner catching up and they insisted on taking care of us for the remaining two nights we’d be in Toronto. From there we were off to Belleville, where Senators Alumni and Lieutenant Colonel, Ed Staniowski took us in. Ed cooked up some steaks and we all sat back, relaxed and watched the hockey game. Admittedly, there was more than a few “back when we played…” type comments, we had a fantastic night. In the morning, I made my bed but I must say I was a little nervous as I’m not sure it was quite up to military standards.

Great Kingston Welcome 
Rolling into Kingston was truly one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had. Rick Smith, another member of the Senators Alumni, teamed up with his buddy, Inspector Brian Begbie of the Kingston Police to plan a full day of festivities celebrating not only my ride and the Boys and Girls Club but all the leaders and mentors in the community. We arrived at our “RV point” (that’s what Ed said, I’m assuming its military for “rendezvous”) to an entire crowd of people cheering and before I knew it I was at the front of an entire parade! A military band marched at the front filling the streets with music, followed by dozens of cyclists, police escorts, firefighters, mounted police, military vehicles, ambulances and hundreds more marching, including some Junior hockey players from the Kingston area.

The kids were raring to go when we finally arrived at the Boys and Girls Club and we had a fantastic floor hockey game and celebration to recognize the importance of leadership in the community. Everybody in Kingston did the city proud and I can’t express how incredible the reception there was. Inspector Begbie was proud of the leaders in his city too and told me, “Alright Brad, now if anyone tops that welcome, you let me know and then come back here and we’ll do it all over again!”

Huge Welcome at Scotiabank Place 
After Kingston it was on to Ottawa, my hometown. Erik, Madeline and I fought the wind the entire way. We battled and battled and finally rolled up to Scotiabank Place (maybe it was a good thing they built the arena out in Kanata) where we rode right into the Zamboni entrance straight onto the Arena Floor. The new Jumbotron was lowered and said “Welcome Home Brad!” The Senator’s Alumni was there to greet me as well as friends of mine I know through all sorts of things. As I stood up to give a quick speech I couldn’t help but be a bit choked up by the massive outpouring of support. The mayor declared June 4, 2012 “Brad Marsh Day” in Ottawa and Cyril Leeder, President of the Ottawa Senators presented Erik, Maddy and I with sweaters to take along for the ride. The media support was fantastic and we had a great time before we hopped on the bikes again for a quick 20km ride with some friends to the Boys and Girls Club. Johnny Barrett won the prize for best bike accessory as he strapped a case of beer to the pannier of his bike.

Once again the kids were fantastic and really had us running but thankfully I could lean on my Alumni buddies to take a shift for me every once and a while. Now I won’t start any squabbles between Inspector Begbie and the Ottawa team so I won’t say one was better than the other, I’ll just say that the support that everyone showed in those two cities especially means so much to me and everyone involved in this ride. The headlines the next day said, “Making a Difference” and with all the help we’re getting, this trip is becoming even more of a success.

As I said before, the distance can be hard, but with the warm welcomes we’ve received everywhere we go, we can always feel at home, even if my house if 4000km away. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has welcomed us into their communities and their homes, and lent us a hand with whatever it may be, you are what keep our pedals turning.


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