Although the temperatures outside have been consistently subzero centigrade, the people here in Winnipeg, Manitoba have been the polar opposite of cold. Spend just a little bit of time here and it will be clear as to why the slogan on their  license plates reads “Friendly Manitoba.”  Friendly Manitobans indeed!  The tour thus far has been a treat, and it’s the friendly people I have met along the way who have made it so good.

I arrived safe and sound last Tuesday evening.  I arrived with the snow.  The white stuff apparently just started falling earlier in the day.  I woke up Wednesday morning to find the ground blanketed in winter sauce. And flakes fell steadily as I drove the roughly 40 minutes north of Winnipeg to Selkirk for my first presentation of the Manitoba Public Insurance “2014 Friends For Life Tour.” Upon my arrival at Selkirk Regional Comprehensive School it was apparent that there was even more snow here than there had been in Winnipeg.  As I exited the car and trudged my way towards the school, I wondered if I might be needing some chains and a plow for my chair for this tour.

Everyone at Selkirk Regional Comp was very welcoming. The were awesome. We had a few technical difficulties but it just made the presentation that much more real in my opinion. Roll with the punches. Literally. Figuratively. After the talk I hung around the hallways with students through their lunch hour. I left the school around 1pm in search of a restaurant in town where I was supposed to be meeting the DA counselor from the school for lunch. However, I was so excited about the events that had just unfolded in the school that I forgot directions, names and every bit of information that would have proved essential to arrive at Roxi’s on time for lunch. An impromptu hour long tour of Selkirk ensued that ended when I finally parked somewhere where I could grab Telus service.  Here I called the school and got details. Lunch was late. But good.

Thursday I had a triple-header which tends to make for a pretty intense day. My first school St James Collegiate were all around great! The students were beauties. I was stoked on my first talk. Then the follow up back-to-back presentations at Garden City Collegiate were equally as awesome as my morning talk. I probably spoke to about 2000 people in just one day. 4000 ears heard my story and my messages within. It was a huge day on social media too. Clearly many appreciated my time. I was fortunate to have my friend Chris Mattewson from MPI along for the day. I couldn’t have hoped for a better day for somebody representing my sponsor MPI to have tagged along. It was an all around amazing day!

I got out on the town a bit Thursday night. I am staying in the Radisson right downtown. To avoid the cold there is a network of covered indoor hallways that lead around the the MTS Centre (where the Winnipeg jets play) and the city’s core.  My hotel is part of this covered network.  I went exploring. I checked out the Sharks Club and Moxies. The staff in Moxies are really cool. I made some fast friends in there who were kind enough to write me down some potential destinations for my approaching weekend. Back to my room and my king sized bed.  Said bed welcomed me with open arms Thursday evening.  I slept and slept and I could have slept much more, save for my alarm waking me up up early Friday.  Party pooper!  I woke up to Propagandhi.  Propagandhi.  PC, Winnipegan, vegan skate punkers gone thrash.  My eyes were heavy, but on I went for the first of my two presentations.  I listened to this album as I drove.  I have listened to Propagandhi’s Supporting Caste album a lot since I arrived in their homeland.

My first presentation was at St John’s Collegiate in the city. My morning caffeine seemed to have little effect on me as I fought off yawn after yawn awaiting my morning audience. As soon as it was show-time I was go-time though. I found this incredible boost of energy. This presentation had some really cool flow to it. The students responded like champs. I hung around the school for hours after my presentation chatting with students and taking pics and signing cards and arms. I got a lot of messages too. Messages I intend to respond to after I am done writing this blog.

My afternoon talk Friday was at a French school called Jean Sauve. I felt like it was going to be a beauty as soon as I entered the school. There was an energy. Then there was a massive display dedicated to the Friends For Life Tour and my visit set up in the front entrance that really got me fired up. A lot of work clearly was put into this display.  The students at Jean Sauve were perfect. This was a perfect way to end an incredible week in Winnipeg. I left the school feeling super happy. I really love this journey I am on. To compliment my already great day my iPod played some doozies for my journey back to my hotel… most notable MANOWAR! I love MANOWAR!!  Me and five friends flew to Cleveland, Ohio to see MANOWAR in 2011.  It was EPIC!!!  I love the METAL!!!!

My weekend was stellar. I ate at Moxies Friday.  From here I followed my notes from the Moxies girls and headed to a pizza joint called Carbones that apparently has a coolo vibe and crowd on weekends. A pizza place?  I had to see this!  I wasn’t expecting the place to go off but it did. Not your typical pizza place. Best of all I made a new best friend as soon as I got there. Some dude came up to me and asked me what kind of chair I had. My response was “a WHEELCHAIR.” Cheeky much??  That sealed the deal though. New friend. New bro.  James is a local. He likes punk rock and metal; travels for work and lives a very similar existence to mine. He is also a rep for a hand-cycle company, which is why he initially asked me about my chair. My new pal showed me Winnipeg this weekend. I ate good food. Saw live music. Met some nice folks. It was awesome. I love this city! I had such a great time I barely noticed it was -15C / 9F outside the entire time.

Which leads me to today. Monday. And if ever a Monday has felt like a Monday that Monday would this Monday. I think I growled my entire first presentation this morning at West Kildonan Collegiate. The students didn’t seem to mind though. For all they knew my voice normally sounds like Cookie Monster. Growly or not I delivered my presentation to a stellar audience this morning who seemed quite moved by our time together. By the amount of hits I got on social media following my talk I think it is safe to say Cookie Monster inspired some folks this morning. Thanks WKC!!

In my spare time between presentations I hit Safeway and bought a mini-fridge sized stash of fruit, veggies and almonds. These are my staples on the road. Have to eat right. I am addicted to raw fruit, veggies and almonds. It’s a good thing too considering I am in my mid 30s and haven’t been able to do a sit-up in over 14 years. I made it to Oak Park Collegiate with just enough time to set-up my AV and fire on my video for the approaching audience.

I had another awesome audience this afternoon.  OPC were GREAT!  OPC TADD group GREAT!!  So much respect. And yeah… there is a theme here. Friendly Manitobans. Thousands of teens in less than a week have given me their attention, their respect and their time. It has been such an honour to speak to and meet all of you. I am smiling big as I write these words. I am right stoked on the whirlwind that my social media has been. I have really enjoyed the time spent between presentations personally meeting many of you and hearing your take on what I delivered to your school, your peers and your friends.

I have been very fortunate to have been able to find a way to turn a tragedy into something so uplifting and positive for others. The reward for me is your response. And honestly I know no better feeling than that of knocking a presentation out of the park at a school and leaving knowing I just made a positive difference in someone’s life… maybe many someone’s lives. It rules! It SO RULES!!

I hope this lesson and message of turning the negatives in our lives into positives for others and ourselves is heard loud and clear by all. It really is the greatest healer of all. Take it from me. I am living non-stop awesome days. I thank you all for giving me the opportunity. I also thank Manitoba Public Insurance for making this entire tour possible. I am about halfway through this 5th Friends For Life Tour and it can’t imagine a way for it to have gone any better thus far. Big thanks to Selkirk Regional Collegiate, St James Collegiate, Garden City Collegiate, St John’s Collegiate, Jean Sauve, West Kidonan Collegiate and Oak Park Collegiate!! So far so great!!

Thanks for reading.  Stay rad and stay warm.  Awesome days ahead!!

Wiggle Your Toes