MCHS teacher and trip organizer Greg Boutestein, Lorette Champagne widow of Roger Champagne, 20th bike recipient Larissa Jones and Roger’s nephew and Champagne family spokesperson Jim Douville posed for a photo after the bike presentation held May 13 at MCHS. – Lucie Roy Photo
By Lucie Roy with files from Morinville News
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 Morinville Community High School (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. For many of those years, the Champagne family has presented a student with a bike to take on the annual trip.
“This is the twentieth bike”, said Champagne’s widow Lorette,” adding the bike was purchased and partly subsidized by Cranky’s Bike Shop in St. Albert. “[It] enables us to sponsor this memorial bike tour and with their continued support, ensure our future commitment.”
Roger Champagne was one of the original people to organize the annual mountain bike trip, and he built a tandem trailer to haul the bikes and supplies to the starting point of the trip. After the riders began their journey, he’d 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.
Roger’s nephew and Champagne family spokesperson Jim Douville spoke of the legacy left behind by Roger Champagne and how 22 years after his passing, people keep coming back and honouring his memory. “Lorette and Roger Champagne never had any kids and this trip memorializes him,” Douville said. “He was a real caring, giving guy. They took a tragic event of Roger being gunned down in Las Vegas and turned it into a positive.”
Ten students ranging from Grade 9 to 12, accompanied by eight adults, will participate in the 22nd Annual Roger Champagne Memorial Bike Trip from Lake Louise to Jasper between May 22 and 25.
MCHS teacher and trip organizer Greg Boutestein said he has been involved in the bike trip since 1997 and felt blessed to be associated with the trip. The cyclists will follow the same 220-kilometre route they have used for the past decade. They will leave May 22 and ride 85 km on Thursday. The last two days will see the students ride 60 to 65 kms each day.
Boutestein said choosing this year’s bike recipient was difficult as there were two strong candidates who qualified to receive it.
Grade 10 student Larissa Jones was excited to be the recipient of the new bike. “I have a pretty old bike and it had many downfalls,” Jones said, after thanking the family. “[It is] nice to have a new bike.”
Jones said she did not bike much until this year and the receipt of the bike has provided her with a good opportunity for her to do so.
In addition to the annual Roger Champagne Memorial Bike Trip, the school is planning the Fred Scharmann Memorial Hiking Trip. It is scheduled for Sept. 18 to 21 and will take place in the same vicinity as the bike trip. The trip honours local businessman and bike trip supporter Fred Scharmann, who passed away recently. Scharmann was a long-time support truck driver on the Roger Champagne Memorial Bike Trip.