Quad Run a Tribute to a Young Man’s Life

by M-Gillies

Stephane Blais died two years ago in an accident. His family and friends have held an annual quad run in his honor which also raises money for charities.

Stephane Blais loved to make people laugh. He was also kindhearted and helpful. It didn’t matter if someone was upset or having a bad day, Stephane, or Steph as friends and family affectionately call him, would always be there, regardless of how serious or light hearted the situation – he would be there front and center, doing what he could to cheer them up. That’s the person Steph is remembered as – a smart, kind, funny and helpful person who always did what he could to make others smile.

Much like his unfaltering dedication to his friends and family, Steph also had a lifelong passion – one that stuck with him since he was eight years old. Ever since he climbed onto the back of his first quad, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with what would soon become a hobby – one that would define him as a person.

“Every weekend, if he wasn’t working, he was out quadding with his friends,” Steph’s mom, Francine Blais said. “(It’s) what he enjoyed doing the most.”

At 17, Steph had the world at his fingertips -a loving family, supportive friends, a passion for trucks and quads. He was three weeks away from graduating from high school, getting ready to begin the next chapter of his life, but then something tragic happened.

It was back in May of 2010, Steph was working with his family, clearing land where they had planned to build a new house, when suddenly a tree struck the forklift he was operating causing fatal injuries to the young man. As news of his death reached the community of Chelmsford, Ontario, Steph’s friends came together in their time of grief and created their own memorials to honor the young man who treated everyone with kindness.

Removing Steph’s locker door and replacing it with a plastic window, students signed messages expressing their loss and their admiration for their friend. By 4 p.m., 40 students had gathered at a local coffee shop that Wednesday – many of them on quads. It was only after everyone was gathered that the group travelled to the site of Steph’s death to plant a large white cross, which students had assembled in the school’s shop class.

Since that day, the Blais family and all of Steph’s friends have begun a new tradition of commemorating his memory. It happens each year, on the Saturday prior to the long weekend in May, and it’s called the Quad Run. This past May marked the second anniversary of the Quad Run, which coincided with the second anniversary of Stephane’s passing.

While the loss of a loved one can have an emotional impact on families, Francine maintains that her way of handling the loss has been through the annual tribute ceremony held each year.

“These two years have been really hard,” said Francine. “But at least I know during this quad run, you see all these people coming together for Steph – for us as a family. We share stories about him. Instead of grieving over his death, we’re remembering him and it’s much more positive and it’s much easier to keep going knowing that you have all these people missing him also.”

At the Quad Run, an event organized by the Blais family, they sell tickets for $30 which includes an In Memory of Stephane Blais t-shirt, door prizes and barbecue. But that’s not all – attendees will be able to share in music, visit a penny sale table and socialize with friends and family.

Meanwhile, the proceeds of the tickets are donated to the Brain Injury Association of Sudbury and District (BIASD)’s Helmet Awareness Program, with an additional $500 put into a bursary in Steph’s honour at his high school, and $400 donated to the A Walk for Jonathan Hetu, Steph’s friend who lost his battle to cancer.

However, the main attraction is the quad run itself. Attendees will arrive on their quads, travel down trails, where memorial posters have been tacked to trees as tributes to friends and family members who’ve passed away and who had been really close to Steph. At the end of the quad ride, there is a memorial book people can sign along with a cooler of pop and water. Afterwards, everyone returns to the house where they gather for a barbecue and cake.

“From what we accomplished you can see how loved and looked up to Steph was,” Francine said of the memorial ceremony and in having Stephane’s name associated with raising the awareness of BIASD’s Helmet Awareness Program. “He’s the best face to put out there to make people aware that it only takes a second – head injuries can cause so much damage and change a life in such a big way.”

To help with organizing the event, many community businesses have donated their services to the cause. “This year we raised over $12,000 and last year we raised $7000,” Francine said. “It just goes to show that it’s getting bigger.”

In the meantime, Francine said she hopes to get a website created for the tribute event in the near future, and further embraces anyone interested in showing their support in helping her organize the event, saying the sooner people contact her the easier it will be for her to arrange everything.

Meanwhile, for Francine, the important thing is keeping the memory of Steph alive, and she feels that the Annual Quad Run has had “tremendous” impact on her.

“It’s unbelievable how much this has helped me, my husband and my son (Steph’s brother, Daniel).” Francine said. “It just goes to show there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

To continue raising awareness of the importance of helmet safety, BIASD has launched it’s Helmet Awareness Campaign in memory of Stephane Blais. What the campaign does is distributes vouchers to the general public which features a $20 discount to be used toward the purchase of a new helmet, redeemable at local community partners.

Read more:

Stephane Blais | ForeverMissed

Rest in Peace Stephane Blais | Facebook

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