It’s bedtime in Ottawa, and the house we are staying in is full of smiles. Max had a great day because he ate a popsicle on Parliament Hill and got to play with his friend Spencer after dinner, and the rest of us had a great day because of the connections we made. Yep, once again, it has been proven that the best thing about doing Max’s Big Ride is the people we are lucky enough to meet and spend time with, and today we spent time with some pretty amazing individuals.
First up was a visit to the University of Ottawa where we met Dr. Bernard Jasmin and his team who are working on treatments for a number of neuromuscular diseases, including Duchenne. On the way to the laboratory Max revealed that he didn’t know that labs existed in real life, but by the time we left he was pretty sure he wanted to be a scientist when he grows up. And it was pretty cool. Lots of young folk in white coats, microscopes and test tubes about the place, and we heard lots about the terrific work happening within the lab to bring treatments to patients who are in desperate need. Admittedly, I did miss a chunk of the tour because I had to take Max to the washroom which took forever, and I also had to feed Isla, but there were a few clear messages that were conveyed to us: Ottawa is a recognized leader in the field of neuromuscular research; there is a high degree of collaboration between teams which means that research dollars get a much greater bang for their buck as discoveries are readily shared thereby expanding their value; and there is increased collaboration between research and clinical teams to help move treatments more quickly from the lab to the patient – something that we were particularly interested to hear about. So it was of great value to us to see firsthand the work that our fundraising dollars pay for, and I hope it was of value to the lab staff to meet a family on the receiving end of all their hard work.
From the university, we sped off to an engagement at Parliament Hill with Burlington MP, Karina Gould. We were initially invited to a gathering with MPs from the Health Committee and Youth Committee where ice cream was to be served, and we were to attend Question Time where Karina was going to speak about Max’s Big Ride to the house. Unfortunately Parliament rose a week early so this was cancelled, but in no way was our visit disappointing.
We arrived a little disheveled after a minor parking incident involving our large van and a small underground parking lot, and Max may or may not have been eating McDonald’s fries to stave off his h-anger, however we pulled ourselves together in time to be greeted on the Hill by Karina and a member of her team who had a stash of popsicles for everyone to enjoy. We chatted and happily ate them while we had our photos professionally taken in front of the Peace Tower, and it was at this point that I wished I had done my hair and popped a bit of lippy on. Then we exchanged gifts. We gave Karina a Max’s Big Ride t-shirt and cheekily threw an extra one in for Justin Trudeau because why not, and she gave us something amazing. An embossed certificate from Karina’s office acknowledging Max for the Big Ride, and A SIGNED LETTER FROM PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU congratulating Max for having the courage to lead the ride and the bravery to search for a cure for Duchenne. It was extremely mind blowing for all of us to receive such an incredible acknowledgement from the PM, and for sure, I admit that part of the excitement for me was having such a handsome, progressive man with such a lovely head of hair acknowledge the work of my husband and my son, but the real thrill was knowing that the leader of Canada has recognised our cause. This really does mean the world and we are extremely grateful for whatever work Karina did behind the scenes to make that happen.
From there we headed inside Centre Block where Karina gave us a personal tour of the building. We got to go inside the House of Commons where Max and Isla sat in the Prime Minister’s chair, and we all went up the Peace Tower where we got a pretty great view of Ottawa and its surrounds. It was a really special experience and one that we’ll all remember for… well… ever.