Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Very Rare, and Special, Guest Blog - The Sub-Zero Challenge

Today I am doing something I very, very rarely do, and in fact have only done once before. I have invited a guest blogger to submit a post - and the fact that I have done so should be considered carefully, because turning this blog over to someone else is like handing over your newborn baby - not something you do lightly, and not something you do without a great deal of faith and trust. Giving this young woman the opportunity to speak on my blog should indicate two things: 1) I endorse the cause she writes about, because it is close to my heart, too, and 2) I endorse this young woman, as I have had the great privilege to spend time with her and she is a remarkable person, beautiful, funny, honest, sincere, authentic - and, as you are about to see, damn brave. 

Fort McMurray, I present to you Elena Jacobs, who is about to embark on a very bold adventure, but not to benefit herself. It is all about benefitting others, as she will share. What I would like you to do with this post is to consider contributing to her cause, and to think about others ways you can contribute to this effort. One of the things we have in this region is great opportunity and potential - and responsibility, because with our good fortune comes an obligation to the welfare of others. This is something I take seriously - and I believe we all should, because being a good citizen is about making sure that we take care of everyone, especially the most vulnerable. And I think Elena has a very personal story about why it matters.

Sub Zero Challenge 

For most, winter camping would seem extreme, especially in the middle of a Fort McMurray winter. For some of the less fortunate residents of Wood Buffalo, it is a matter of survival. On January 18th, 2014, my “survivor man” fiancĂ©e and I are joining Councillor Phil Meagher, and a number of RCMP members and firefighters, in completing the Sub Zero Challenge. No matter how cold it gets, we will spend 24 hours outdoors on Gregoire Lake island and sleep in snow caves of our own making.

Through the Sub Zero Challenge, the Centre of Hope is raising funds for winter coats, toques and other cold weather clothing to help keep our homeless population warm this winter. We are taking in donations of clothing and funds to help ward off hypothermia and frostbitten fingers and toes. Our target is $30,000 and we have a long way to go before the challenge is complete. After reading the article in Fort McMurray Today, I knew the Sub Zero Challege was something I had to do.

Homelessness is very personal for me, as my grandfather was often homeless. While he would regularly migrate back to our First Nation reserve in Calling Lake, his addictions kept him mobile. In 2003, a stroke robbed him of his ability to walk. As devastating as it was, I was comforted in knowing the road to rehabilitation meant he was now safe and sheltered from the elements. He was warm, well fed and being taken care of by wonderful nurses who spoiled him with cookies.

The decade that we got to spend time with him was a gift that came to end in April when he passed on. I’m doing this challenge in my grandfather’s memory and know that he would be proud that I’ve listened to his  life lessons: don’t chew snuff, mind your elders, remember those outside, and everyone is family.

For the record: I do not chew snuff, after every snow fall I clear the driveway and sidewalk of a local senior through the municipality’s Snow Angel program, and I am going to rock this Sub Zero Challenge!

If you would like to make a donation and help us heat the streets, please visit

Elena and Ralph

Elena and her grandfather Harvey

Elena and her grandfather Harvey

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