By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – It has been many years since Roger Champagne was gunned down in Las Vegas by a man looking to feed his drug habit, but the Morinville man, well known for his kindness in the community, has never been forgotten by friends, family or the hundreds of MCHS students who were born some years after the man’s passing. Such is the legacy of Roger Champagne whose memory is honoured each year by MCHS students who take to the mountains for a bike ride that bears his name.
Champagne was one of the original people to organize the mountain bike trip and built a tandem trailer to haul the bikes and supplies to the starting point of the trip. After the riders began their journey, he’s follow the students in his vehicle, offering help and a ride to those who encountered trouble along the way – if he couldn’t fix their bikes himself. Champagne, well regarded for his skills in the kitchen did much of the cooking on the trips.
Jim Douville, a nephew of Roger Champagne, said the bike ride began because of Roger and Lorette Champagne’s love of children.
“They never had kids of their own,” he said. “They treated a lot of kids in the community like their own [and] nieces and nephews like their own.”
Douville said after 20 years he still gets chocked up thinking about how his uncle’s life was cut short.
“I think it goes a long way to say who this guy was,” Douville said. “A pretty remarkable man when you think about it. After 18 years, you get chocked up about his memory.”
Now in its 20th year, the bike ride Champagne helped launch continues to unite MCHS students from different grades for several days of physical activity and fellowship. Like the namesake himself, the family continue his legacy by each year giving back to the community by donating a bike to a worthy MCHS student.
The memorial award is presented annually to the Physical Education 30 student who demonstrates determination, a strong commitment to physical fitness and strong interpersonal and leadership skills.
This year’s recipient is Steavon Taylor, a second year participant in the ride. The Grade 12 student said he was both appreciative of the bike and the fact the family of Roger Champagne have continued the program for two decades.
“I’m really glad to be receiving this bike,” Taylor said. “I much appreciate Roger’s family for giving it out to a biker every year. It’s a pretty big investment, I’d think and I’m honoured to be able to have this award.
Taylor explained having a quality bike for this year’s trip is a far cry from the inexpensive department store bike he rode last year, an equipment upgrade that will help him during the four-day ride.
“I was more in the middle than I was ahead,” Taylor said of his inaugural run in the memorial ride. “I’m an avid biker, so I’m usually up in the front.”
Longer trip this year
MCHS teacher Greg Boutestein said this year’s trip will mark its 20th anniversary with a longer ride.
“It’s a big year for us, so we’re expanding the trip by one day,” Boutestein said. “We’re actually adding a fourth day of riding for the first time ever.”
Those four days will take students through three national parks: Kooteney, Jasper and Banff. The trip will start in British Columbia, entering Alberta and stopping at Lake Louise on day one. From there, students will follow the traditional route from Banff to Jasper over a three-day period. In total, the riders will cover 265 kilometres in four days.
Boutestine said 20 people are participating in this year’s trip, including 13 students.
“It’s a nice even split this year,” he said, adding each of the Grades from 9 through 12 have an equal representation. “It’s a really nice split between the representations of all the grades.”
The teacher said although this year’s group is smaller than in recent years, everyone is as excited as any other year.
To prepare for the trip, Boutestein and the students have been training each Sunday with rides ranging from 37 to 70 kilometres each week.
The students leave Wednesday for the mountains and their four-day journey.