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Lapping up the challenge

Sarah Schleich (left), Ron Gallo, Trevor Patenaude, John Brink, Jason Keller, and Austin Kim get ready to take on the 600 lap challenge. Bill Phillips photo



The 600 Lap Challenge at the Northern Sport Centre is about fitness. But, for six participants in this year’s challenge, it will be about something more.

It will be about supporting, financially, the local charity of their choice, thanks to a sponsorship from the Brink Group of Companies. The Brink Group is sponsoring six local athletes by donating $1 per lap (up to 600), to a local Prince George charity of their choice.

The athletes are Austin Kim, donating to the Prince George Human Society; Dani O’Donnell, donating to the B.C. SPCA North Cariboo District Branch; Ron Gallo, donating to the B.C. Cancer Foundation; Trevor Patenaude, donating to St. Vincent De Paul; Sarah and Richard Schleich, donating to the Prince George George Hospice Society; and Jason Keller, donating to the Prince George Brain Injured Group.

The 600 Lap Challenge started November 1 and runs until the end of December. It’s open to anyone and there will be weekly prizes along with a grand prize for one lucky person who completes the 600 laps.


Supporting Prince George Brain Injured Group

Keller said he works on his own personal fitness, so when he was asked if he wanted to take part in the 600 Lap Challenge, he was on board right away.

“Fitness is a great thing,” says Keller, who just competed in a bodybuilding competition. “To be able to do 600 laps, doesn’t seem like much, but it takes time and commitment and planning.”

Keller is supporting the Prince George Brain Injured Group, an organization that is near and dear to him.

“In 2011, at this time of year, I was in a coma,” he says. “I lived in Vancouver, I was a personal trainer down there, and I fell from a Skytrain station platform.”

In addition to being in a coma for a month, he was in hospital for a year.

“I have really good strong support,” he said. “A lot of people (with brain injuries) don’t. The Prince George Brain Injury Group are amazing what they do for people.”

He just started so, as of Wednesday, he was at 20 laps. But he plans to do 100 laps per week, which will easily get him to the 600.


Supporting the Prince George Humane Society

Like Keller, Kim was asked if he wanted to take part and obviously said yes.

“Scott (McWalter) challenged me on Facebook,” he says. “I was in a sort of dark place, I had more bad days than good, so I was hesitant.”

However, when he saw that participants could go at their own pace, he thought he would give it a try.

“I came up and did a few laps, so that helped my confidence,” he said, adding he’s now at 262 laps in his quest to hit 600. “There’s many other great competitors that are actually running and going full force. A lot of time I wanted to stop, but those people around me really push me to keep going. Instead of going one lap, I could look at those people and do three or four more.”

Kim is donating to the Prince George Humane Society. He knows Angela McLaren of the society who approached him for a donation through his business, the Prince George Recycling and Return-It Centre.

“Our budget actually ran out so I was trying to see if there was any way I could help out and right opportunity came up,” he said. “She mentioned that even last month their vet bill came out to be $15,000. So I thought I could help them out with John (Brink’s) generosity of $600.”


Supporting St. Vincent De Paul

This is the third year that Patenaude has done the challenge, so it’s nothing new to him. What is new, however, is that he’s doing it in a wheelchair. Patenaude was injured in a motocross accident earlier this year and is temporarily wheelchair bound. Even so, it’s not stopping him.

“It’s something I look forward every year,” he said. “I’ve been pretty much bed-ridden for the past six weeks and the challenge was a reminder on my calendar.”

Rather than stay bed-ridden he’s taken up the challenge, which has its own challenges for Patenaude this year.

“It’s hard,” he says. “I completely under-estimated how much harder it was going to be. I thought once I got the wheels moving it would be OK. The track surface, which is easier on runners’ knees, is like riding in sand. It’s very hard to push the chair.”

He’s using a Red Cross loaner wheelchair, which he’s very grateful for, but it really isn’t made for wheeling the track at the Northern Sport Centre.

“We’re struggling, but we’re a week in an we’re at 70 laps,” he says.

He says the $600 sponsorship means a lot.

“What Brink Group of Companies is doing, is amazing,” he says. “To put a dollar down for every lap is a humbling experience. This is a tough experience for me. It’s not permanent, but I’m in a wheelchair, but life could always be different. Be grateful for what you’ve got.”

He said to be able to donate St. Vincent De Paul is “great.”

His goal is slightly more than 600 laps, he wants to do 601 laps with the last lap done on foot.


Supporting the Prince George Hospice Society

When the gauntlet was thrown for Sarah, her competitive side took over.

“I’m never going to turn down a challenge,” she says. “Especially one that allows me to give to one of my favourite charities.”

Last year Sarah and her husband Richard did the Heart for Hospice event in Prince George, so they are very familiar with the work Hospice does.

“It stole our hearts,” she says. “We’ve been huge supporters ever since.”

Sarah will be undergoing some surgery and has to take it easy for about six weeks, but she will be allowed to walk.

“This is a perfect time for me to take the Dhallenge on,” he said. “It’s a really good thing to help me stay focused during my recovery, especially since I’ve been so active.”

Earlier this year she competed in the Iron Ore Classic in Prince George.


Supporting the BC Cancer Foundation

No stranger to fitness and raising money for charity, Gallo also jumped at the opportunity to do both when McWalter issued the challenge. It’s Gallo’s fourth year doing the 600 Lap Challenge.

“It’s been a progression, since year 1,” he says. “It’s a way of measuring some success for me personally. The very first year it took me until sometime in December to get it done, and I’ve been shaving off the dates. The rate I’m going now, I’ll be done in two weeks.”

He says there is a lot of camaraderie  among the runners and there is enough “competitive juices” to make it a lot of fun. The Northern Sport Centre posts a leaderboard and some runners are already over 400 laps.

“It’s all about a personal challenge,” he said. “The leaderboard is there for motivation and inspiration. But just doing it is the most important thing.”

He says with summer activities slowing down and winter festivities, replete with calorie-laced goodies, it’s a good time to continue with fitness.

Along with this being Gallo’s fourth year in the 600 Lap Challenge, it’s also his fourth year riding in the British Columbia Ride to Conquer Cancer with Wheeling Warriors of the North. The fundraising the Wheeling Warriors does goes to support the Foundation, which supports directly the B.C. Cancer Centre for the North in Prince George.

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