Le Grand Portage

This isn’t a trip report, but I hope you’ll read it anyway.

This October 7th, at about 3:00 pm, I’ll be putting a canoe on my shoulders and starting a 13 KM portage with my wife and a few good friends (here’s a tip: if you’re ranking friends, put the ones who somehow say “yes” when you ask them if they want to help you carry a large, unwieldly object for 13 KM right at the top of the list. These are also the ones to keep in mind if you ever have to move). We’ll be carrying our canoe along a stretch of the Trans Canada Trail and, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be stumbling into downtown Stittsville about two hours after we start. Waiting for us will be another group, who will take the canoe from us and start their own 13 KM portage. And after them will be another group. And after them, another. All told, there are 40 teams across two provinces helping portage this canoe from Toronto to Montreal and I am incredibly proud and grateful that I get to be a part of it.

See, this event is the brainchild of an old friend of mine from my camp days, Felix Jasmin. Felix is one of those force of nature people who come along so rarely, yet impact the world and everyone around them so significantly. I have met very few people with as much energy, enthusiasm and determination as Felix. Combine that with his infectious optimism and good nature and you end up with someone who you believe can do anything they set their mind to, and who makes you believe you can do anything you set your mind to as well.

In 2019, Felix was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Most people would probably retreat from that kind of news, he ran with it. In the space of a few months last year, he and his wife Meg, who, like my wife and I, met at camp, organized the first Le Grand Portage charity run with all proceeds going to benefit MS research. Their hope was to raise $50,000.00. They ended up raising $370,000.00. This year Le Grand Portage is split into two events: the team relay portage from Toronto to Montreal I mentioned above, and a 13 KM run on October 17. I’ll be taking part in each event and I’m very much looking forward to lacing up both my hiking boots and my running shoes in support of this cause.

Felix’s Le Grand Portage is named after The Grand Portage, a famous 13 KM portage between the Pigeon River and Lake Superior. This portage was a rite of passage of sorts for many who spent time at the Taylor Statten Camps. Staff and campers would cross it as the culmination of a 35 day canoe trip through Quetico Park (in western Ontario) and the Boundary Waters Canoeing Area Wilderness (in the United States). My turn to experience The Grand Portage came in 2004 and my overriding memory of the carry was the sense of having achieved something I would never have imagined I could achieve even a few years earlier (also, I remember being wet, but that’s less inspirational).

I think that’s why Felix’s Grand Portage speaks so loudly to me. I’m not the only person for whom Felix was an important and ever present part of my time at camp. On the About section of Le Grand Portage’s website, Felix talks about how the concept of the Grand Portage symbolizes the path ahead for him and every other MS patient. It is a tough carry. Intimidating and unknown. As he did so often at camp, Felix is trying to help everyone staring down this challenging trail find their way to the other side. The money he’s raising will go directly to help fund the research of Dr. Jack Antel (Neuro-McGill) and Dr. Alexandre Prat (CHUM-Université de Montréal). Their research focuses on the immunological and neurological mechanisms involved in the development and progression of MS. This knowledge is a necessary step towards better treatment options for the disease.

I’m writing this on October 4th. Felix, Meg and their three kids have been on the trail for five days now. With the help of their friends, they’ve covered 320 kilometers and raised just over $305,000.00. Their hope is that they’ll get to $350,000.00 before the end of the portage, which would be the equivalent of $500.00 raised per kilometer. I’d like to help them get there. Below is a link to my personal donation page. If you are able, I would very much appreciate any support you could show Felix, Meg and their amazing efforts. All your donations (100%) will go to research, and you will receive a tax receipt from the Université de Montréal. 

https://app.simplyk.io/fundraising/2a4663c5-3e1b-4f28-8ab5-1e297c98d947

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and for your support. I’m going to leave you here with Felix, Meg and their family’s story in their own words, because they tell it so much better than I ever could.

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