Steve McNeil, a 60 year old mailman and a recreational hockey referee from Etobicoke, is coming to Kingston on January 15 and will skate non-stop for 19 hours and 26 minutes beginning at midnight in memory of his mother, Eunice McNeil.
In doing so, McNeil also hopes to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. His mother died of Alzheimer’s in 2013; McNeil’s skating event and fundraiser honors all the caregivers, those diagnosed with dementia, and their families.
“Alzheimer’s disease not only affects the person going through it, but their family, friends and community. It’s a painful journey for all,” said McNeil.
McNeil started his skating initiative, 1926 Skate for Alzheimer’s, 10 years ago on his mother’s birth date — Eunice McNeil was born on Dec. 15, 1926, hence the significance of the number — and he has continued the tradition every year. He also introduced December 15 as 1926 National Skate Day for Alzheimer’s.
“I started alone initially, but when later I took it to Alzheimer’s society in Toronto, at the national and provincial level, I was glad to have a positive response from everyone working towards this cause,” said McNeil.
The event that initially started as a one-man show soon caught the attention of other community members and people who have had shared experiences of Alzheimer’s in some way, expanding the fundraiser to all over Canada.
In 2018, McNeil traveled across Canada, skating in seven Canadian NHL hockey cities – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. In 2019-2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, he added four more locations, including Saskatoon, Charlottetown, Fredericton and Halifax in his skating adventure.
“I listen to my favorite rock band, AC/DC, while skating and honor Angus Young, a band member who died of Alzheimer’s,” said McNeil.
During his 2018 skating adventure, the band learned about McNeil and donated $19,260 to Alzheimer’s Societies across Canada.
Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocol, only 25 people will be allowed on the rink, and McNeil will be joined by at least one retired NHL player and a few other notable hockey players while he skates on the Springer Market Square ice rink.
“I have heard many good things about the Kingston community, and I really appreciate the love and support,” he added.
He asks people to donate $19.26 to the Alzheimer’s Society in their region. He also started the #1926Challenge for hockey teams throughout the region, from minor league teams to the highest level, having teams skate for 19 minutes and 26 seconds to AC/DC music at their practice, and donate $19.26 to their local Alzheimer Society.
While in Kingston, the Keg will host McNeil for his favorite steak dinner, and he will stay at the Delta Hotels by Marriot Kingston Waterfront, just a stone’s throw away from the Market Square skating rink.
“We are excited that Steve has included Kingston in his 10th-anniversary skate. We hope that people will stop by to say hello, and maybe even bring him treats to enjoy while he skates,” said Vicki Poffley, Executive Director Alzheimer Society KFL&A.
The Alzheimer Society of KFL&A has struggled like any other charity during COVID. They have transitioned to online fundraising activities, but donations are not at pre-pandemic levels.
Lesley Kimble, the Fundraising Coordinator at Alzheimer’s Society KFL&A, shared that McNeil’s skate will raise much-needed funds for local programs and services offered throughout KFL&A. Besides fundraising, the most crucial element of such events is to raise awareness in the community.
“The fact that this skate happened to be scheduled during Alzheimer Awareness Month is a happy coincidence for us, and we are thrilled to have him bring his message to Kingston,” said Kimble.
“The community must know who we are, what services we offer, and that the Alzheimer Society is here to help individuals who are diagnosed with dementia, their families and caregivers to give them the support they need and help make our community dementia-friendly through educational opportunities for community groups, employee groups and the general community,” she added.
The Alzheimer Society of KFL&A provides many programs and services to patients, caregivers and families, including care programs, workshops, peer groups, community training and support groups for family members, care partners and those living with dementia.
Donations can be made on McNeil’s website www.1926Skate.com or to the Alzheimer Society of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) website here, and all donations will remain in the local community.
To find out more about the Alzheimer Society of KFL&A and the services they offer, visit their website.