19 hours, 26 minutes later, ref fundraising for Alzheimer's feels 'fantastic'
EDMONTON -- An Ontario hockey referee skated for 19 hours and 26 minutes at Edmonton’s City Hall rink on Monday to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's.
Steve McNeil stepped onto the ice at 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning, finishing 7:26 p.m. as part of his 1926 Skate for Alzheimer's.
"The hardest part of the skate is probably around four, five o'clock in the morning hour when you're usually by yourself and fatigue starts settling in a little bit, mental and physical fatigue," McNeil told CTV News Edmonton.
"I feel fantastic," he said. "If I could get people to all donate again a second time, I'd probably go right back out and do another 19 hours and 26 minutes."
The Edmonton skate-a-thon was his 18th in eight years across Canada, each time raising money and awareness as a tribute to his mother, who died from Alzheimer's in 2013.
"Each time is different but it seems easier psychologically. And physically, it's -- I skate a lot, I always have, so the skating part's easy," he explained.
"I started it in Toronto in 2012 as a dedication to my mother, who was born in 1926 and battled with Alzheimer's for the better part of 20 years, so as a recreational ice hockey referee in Toronto, I found a way to give back."
The money he raises goes to the Alzheimer's society in the city he skates in.
In 2019 he skated in the seven cities in Canada with an NHL team, including Edmonton. This year he’s skating in 12 cities in all 10 provinces.
"I’m going to be complete in New Brunswick by Feb. 21."
"The cool thing is watching these cities wake up like this, and Edmonton is just a fantastic city, so I’m really enjoying this,” he said Monday morning, early into the event.
He skated in Calgary on Friday, despite the bitterly cold temperatures.
"I stepped on the ice in Olympic Plaza in Calgary on Friday at 5 p.m., and it was nasty. It was cold."
McNeil stays charged by listening to AC/DC for the entire duration of each skate. He has a special connection with the band.
"I liked their music my whole life, and then five years ago I found out that Malcolm Young of the band, one of the founding brothers, was diagnosed with dementia."
"I always have my music in my ears anyway, so I just decided five years ago I was going to dedicate the skate to Malcolm musically and I was just going to listen to AC/DC."
And last year, during his skate in Edmonton, AC/DC found out about McNeil’s dedication.
"The band actually contacted me in my hotel room here in Alberta and donated $19,260 to the Alzheimer's Music Program right across Canada and it just supercharged me."
His next stop is Saskatoon, Sask.