Ben was a full tilt, larger than life, adventurous and kind spirit. He thrived in the outdoors and took great pleasure and pride in sharing his passion with others.
Following his Honors BA – School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks & Tourism Degree at Lakehead University, Ben spent time as a professional arctic wilderness river guide. He guided multiple expeditions on the Nahanni River (NWT), Tatshenshini River (Alaska/BC) and Coppermine River (Nunavut), even appearing in some articles written and photographed by Matt Jackson for Paddler and Kanawa (’98) magazines (‘07), before joining the corporate world.
An avid outdoorsman, Ben was always on an amazing adventure whether it was racing a chase truck (support) in the Baja 1000 from Ensenada to La Paz, Mexico (1000 miles in 35 hours), or summitting a mountain such as Mount Victoria and Lefroy (BC/AB), Mt. Robson (BC), Mt. Rainier (Washington state), among others. He was an adventurer, master storyteller and free spirit. Ben would give you the shirt off his back, the shoes on his feet and/or the sandwich he’d just carefully crafted, if he thought it would bring you happiness. Those who were fortunate enough to have known him, witnessed him excel in many pursuits. He was an artist, an athlete, a businessman and a scholar, with an adept ability to make people laugh. He was a loving son, brother, uncle, cousin, husband, friend, and adoring companion to his loyal dog Indy.
As inspirational as Ben was, he also battled anxiety, depression, and alcohol addiction. Ben knew better than most how inner turmoil can devastate an otherwise extraordinary life. It is believed by Ben’s family, that the many concussions he endured throughout his life; whether in football, an accidental fall, a climbing accident or a serious snowmobile accident; all contributed to traumatic brain injury that exacerbated his symptoms. Ben suffered from crippling migraines, and body pain and often tried to self-medicate to alleviate the pain. This went undiagnosed and ultimately led to a tragic accident that took his life. Ben wanted desperately to get better and spent many stints in different programs and facilities trying to overcome them. He couldn’t understand, no matter how hard he tried, why he couldn’t get back to his old self. That the urges to self-soothe, stop the pain or escape for a while, weren’t going away. Ben had everything going for him. He was intelligent, good-looking, witty, and fun to be around. He had a loving wife, was an adored Uncle, and meant the world to his parents, sister, family, and friends. Having been in and out of our current medical system trying to source the right kind of help only to be disheartened time and time again, Ben made it his personal mission to try and bridge the gap between conventional medical care and the unique needs of those suffering from a mental health crisis. He wanted to provide a resource that would address these needs head-on and with greater understanding. Ultimately, Ben believed a Wilderness Therapy program that introduced Mother Nature's healing powers, peace and serenity combined with proper medical treatment would provide the needed alternative therapy option. No matter what Ben faced, when he was outside and connecting with nature, he felt grounded, energized, hopeful, and happy. He was on a mission to help others suffering, achieve the same. We, as Benjamin’s family, are determined to continue his work.
Ben passed away, surrounded by family and friends, on the morning of June 10, 2015. He was 41 years old and declared brain dead after a terrible accident that could have been prevented. Just two nights prior, Ben was already in hospital for a mental health crisis. He was embarrassed for needing help with his drinking and feeling weak, yet the doctor still released him and told him he wasn’t worth his time or the bed he was laying on. Had the doctor truly understood the seriousness of the situation and been educated on the fact that one’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, perhaps he would have had more compassion and understanding for what Ben was facing and could have helped prevent the devastating outcome. Had Ben been feeling better, cared for, and able to make better decisions, the accident would never have happened. In the end, it was Ben that saved multiple lives through his organ donations on June 12th, 2015. Ben never did anything at less than 110%, and now his kind, adventurous, loving, and free spirit will live on in our memories, and in the lives of those that he helped to save.