Pre-service firefighter students pull with community for Epilepsy Ottawa

Stormtroopers and Jedi wove their way through the misty, cold afternoon. A sole bagpiper led a team of kilted strongmen through Lansdowne Park towards the fire trucks. Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and superheroes of all varieties limbered up for competition. Among the curious array of tutus and city officials, representatives from Epilepsy Ottawa meticulously counted the […]
Photo: Kerry Slack
Brandon Bedard anchors C Platoon, followed by Kaidyn Kovacic, Ryan Ray, Jack Abbott, and Hope Fawsy.

Stormtroopers and Jedi wove their way through the misty, cold afternoon.

A sole bagpiper led a team of kilted strongmen through Lansdowne Park towards the fire trucks.

Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and superheroes of all varieties limbered up for competition.

Among the curious array of tutus and city officials, representatives from Epilepsy Ottawa meticulously counted the donation totals.

Algonquin College’s C Platoon, consisting of 15 pre-service firefighter students from the Woodroffe campus, showed up in the rain on Oct. 21 ready to move a 12-tonne fire truck 100 feet down Marche Way in support of Epilepsy Ottawa.

C Platoon contributed $2,100 of the over $39,000 raised in a record-setting donation total at this year’s event.

Ottawa Fire Truck Pull
Lansdowne Park
October 21, 2023.
C Platoon celebrates a hard race and a great team-building experience. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Harley Quesnel, Jordan Valdes-Malecki, Alicia Capello, Brandon Bedard, Carter O’Connor, Ryan Ray, Joey Demelo, Marcel Ahmed, Hope Fawzy, Kaidyn Kovacic, Ethan McCormick, Jack Abbott, Isabella Tourangeau and Leo the puppy came ready to work the crowd and haul some serious weight.

Ottawa Fire Truck Pull
Lansdowne Park
October 21, 2023.
Leo struggles to pose for a shot.
With so many good smells, its hard for a pup to concentrate. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Abbott, Quesnel, O’Connor and Valdes-Malecki represented Algonquin College in the honorary pull to start the event.

Ottawa Fire Truck Pull
Lansdowne Park
October 21, 2023.
Jack Abbott from Algonquin College's C Platoon leads the honourary team for the first pull of the day. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Twenty teams of 10 competed in the Ottawa Fire Truck Pull in categories such as most money raised, team spirit and fastest time.

“My legs are done but I think we did well,” said Bedard, who anchored the pull for Algonquin College.

Ottawa Fire Truck Pull
Lansdowne Park
October 21, 2023.
C Platoon pulls hard to begin their race Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Coming in with a time of 30.68 seconds wasn’t enough for the win and although C Platoon had the crowd screaming for the 16th pull of the day, it was rivals La Cité who took the spirit award.

“It’s nice to see the impact it has on the city and how many people are here, involved in this,” said Fawzy.

Algonquin College has a deeper connection to the fire truck pull, which includes the Shawn Mathieson First Responders Challenge.

Shawn Mathieson was a long-time firefighter in Ottawa who was also an Algonquin alumni. He was first in the electrician program then he went on to the fire program.

“Back at that time there was not as much demand for electricians and he (Mathieson) loved helping people so he joined the fire program,” said his wife Carrie Mathieson.

A long-time firefighter Mathieson loved giving back to the community. This was his favorite fundraiser to be a part of.

“Shawn would have been all smiles out here today. He was all about community. He loved this event,” said Mathieson.

Shawn Mathieson was killed in a snowmobile crash on March 3, 2016.

The Ottawa Fire Truck Pull now annually presents the Shawn Mathieson First Responders Challenge in his honour.

The winners of the Shawn Mathieson First Responders Challenge were Team Shrek consisting of 10 first responders, including his best friend Tom Fuller and his wife Carrie.

"Shawn loved this event," said Carrie Mathieson, fourth from the right.
Team Shrek wins the Shawn Mathieson First Responders Challenge. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

“Shawn was a powerful man,” said Fuller. “He could pull that truck by himself.”

Ottawa South MPP John Fraser also helped in the honorary first pull.

“I’m 64, I’m not getting any younger, but it was a lot of fun,” said Fraser.

Fraser commits to showing up for more than the polls and actively engages with as many community events as possible.

“There’s a sense of everybody pulling together, literally,” said Fraser. “It’s a great idea for a fundraiser or I like to call them, ‘friend raisers’ which are not only going to raise funds, but you also raise friends.”

Epilepsy Ottawa helps improve the quality of life for the 10,000 people in the region living with epilepsy and their loved ones through support services, education, advocacy and ongoing public awareness.

Jennifer Smith found support on Epilepsy Ottawa’s Facebook page when her daughter was diagnosed.

Making connections has been integral to her family’s journey within this community.

“I saw them (Epilepsy Ottawa) on Facebook one day and they have a parent group. Now I can talk to other parents so I’m not alone in this anymore,” said Smith.

“My daughter has met other children who have epilepsy so she’s not alone either.”

“The more we talk about it the more open we are about it then the more people that can help. It’s scary to talk about sometimes but a fun event like this it takes all that stigma away,” said Smith.

Although C Platoon didn’t come away with the win they came away with a sense of accomplishment and had fun doing it.

Ottawa Fire Truck Pull
Lansdowne Park
October 21, 2023.
It wasn't all hard work.
Pull team captain Carter O'Connor celebrates with a dance. Photo credit: Kerry Slack

Happy with their contribution, Capello said, “I think it went really well. We pulled strong.”

“We had a really great time as a group,” said Fawzy through deep breaths at the finish line. “Win or lose it was a great team bonding event for us. That’s a win.”

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