Geoff McLeod (Big Red as his friends call him) is an inspiration to many.
He is a true representation of being a giver in his community whatever that community may be. Whether his passion be nature, wildlife , Rugby, or Crossfit he doesn’t just participate he gets active. He wouldn’t just play rugby he’d be the president of the Northern Saskatchewan Rugby Union. He wouldn’t just do crossfit he competed and judged competitions. His Master’s degree in Dutch Elm Disease from SFU wasn’t just a piece of paper it set him on the path to be a director on the board of the Saskatchewan Dutch Elm Disease Association. His love of wildlife would mean being the president of the Saskatchewan Wildlife Rehabilitation Society and volunteering for animal organizations like New Hope dog rescue and street cat rescue. As his wife Jamille will tell you “Geoff is a big guy (at 6’4 260lbs) with a big voice when it comes to things he is passionate about”
On May 29th 2013 the McLeod’s (Geoff’s wife of just over 4 years and their 2 daughters Grace and Bethany) lives were challenged with the news that Geoff had stage 4 Glioblastama- inoperable brain tumors. All of Geoff’s community work came to a halt along with a pending work promotion at the city of Saskatoon as he had to immediately undergo radiation as well as chemotherapy.
Geoff’s best friend Randle described that summer after Geoff’s diagnosis as one of the most heart-wrenching times as a friend, and finds it hard to imagine how Jamille was able to handle it with such grace. The tumors began having immediate impact on Geoff’s mobility, but worsen on his mind, often trampling the emotional side of his personality leaving him not the same fun loving Geoff his friends and family knew so well. More troubling was the amount of seizure’s Geoff was experiencing due to the tumors. Several times Jamille attempted planning a vacation for the family but every time plans were interrupted by a medical emergency.
In the fall of 2013 while Geoff’s health was slowly improving (less seizures- in frequency and severity) Ross Gadzella was in the beginning stages of setting up a new club called Front Row U of S. Of course one of their first projects was to set up their facebook page- a page Erin Barnes (a coworker of Geoff’s) happened to see one day. Erin immediately contacted Ross and they were able to approach Geoff’s wife about beginning the nomination process.
The Front Row Foundation selection committee was immediately moved by Geoff’s story and knew this was a man we needed to celebrate! That being said it wasn’t immediately evident what type of event could be done for Geoff as he had medical restrictions that meant he would not be able to travel outside of Canada OR take in the type of rock concert he would have loved to go to as the light show would be too much. When we found out Geoff’s favourite hockey team was the Detroit Red Wings we were on to something and began searching for games in Canada, and of course we found one..in Toronto..on his BIRTHDAY!! The challenge of planning and fundraising was ON!
With 6 weeks to go this would prove to be one of Front Row Foundation Canada’s biggest events with the least amount of time to plan and fundraise. It was going to take a lot of work but with the conviction and passion of Sherri Dickie, Ross Gadzella, Angie Macdougall and Warren Macdougall as well as the unbelievable support of the friends/family and Co-Workers of Geoff things began to come together. There were bake sales, beer nights, 50/50 draws, and email campaigns. With a couple weeks left to go the biggest challenge was proving to not be fundraising but actually getting tickets to a Toronto Maple Leafs (the most demanded in the league) game four days before Christmas!!
10 days before the event we received the incredible news from Michelle Chartier a connection to Geoff from the city that she in fact had a connection to the Detroit Red Wings and not only were they offering to take Geoff and Jamille to the Red Wings practice that morning, they would also be having lunch with the team AND the Westin was donating their room that night. This was AMAZING news and we are so grateful to the Red Wings and Westin Hotel. Now there was no way he was going to the practice and not the game and THAT day we were finally able to secure tickets. The rest is history as they say….
Geoff and Jamille arrived in Toronto on Friday evening just in time to take a brief rest and get ready for dinner. Geoff was in amazing health and spirits despite some concern on everyone’s part about changes in pressure and elevation. He continued to amaze us all weekend with his strength, energy and humor. Geoff Jamille Kristine and Sherri enjoyed an amazing Sushi Dinner at Ki Restaurant very close to the Westin. They were treated like Royalty with special amuse bouche’s and a little treat at the end of their meal ☺
While Geoff and Jamille went to get a good nights sleep and rest up for the big day Geoff’s best friend Randle was arriving late to the Toronto aiport. Randle and Geoff have been best friends since Grade 10 when Geoff saved Randle from getting his butt kicked but some bigger guys. He was a great addition to the event and we were really grateful to have him there to support and celebrate Geoff.