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Racing helmet labour of love for Canadian ski racer Brodie Seger

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Brodie Seger had to wait another day to debut a race helmet that means a lot to him. Friday's cancellation of the first of two World Cup men's downhills in Lake Louise, Alta.
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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Brodie Seger had to wait another day to debut a race helmet that means a lot to him.

Friday's cancellation of the first of two World Cup men's downhills in Lake Louise, Alta., because of too much snow reduced the host Canadian team's chances to race at home a year after the entire event was wiped out due to COVID-19.

Seger will have another chance to race in his new purple-and-blue beflowered helmet in Saturday's downhill. 

He's on the start list along with Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., Toronto's Jack Crawford, Jeffrey Read of Canmore, Alta., Cameron Alexander of North Vancouver, B.C., and Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C.

Seger's helmet is the product of his fundraising campaign for the ALS Society of B.C.

ALS is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The motor neuron disease gradually paralyzes afflicted people as the muscles of the body break down and the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and eventually breathe disappears. There is no cure.

Seger's father Mark has lived with ALS for nine years. 

Mark, 58, stopped working as a family physician four years after the onset of symptoms.

"He's doing all right," Seger said Friday. "He's a very slow progresser with ALS.

"Normally, when you're diagnosed you're given a two-to-five-year prognosis. That's the average life span after diagnosis. The fact that he's still doing all right after nine years, we're lucky for that. 

"Unfortunately, he's not quite in good enough shape to travel so he wasn't able to come out for this, but my mom's out here. He's still getting out with the dog most days, which is amazing."

Seger's younger brother Riley, who ski races for the University of Montana, ran a Vancouver half-marathon in 2019 to help raise over $8,000 for ALS-B.C. 

That inspired Seger to come up with his own fundraising project this past summer centred around a design competition for his helmet.

"It was really just this loose idea for a long time," the 25-year-old said. "We were also kind of running out of time to have a competition period and then have enough time to paint the helmet and have it ready for these races."

With the help of his sponsors and ALS-B.C., Seger got a Helmet For Hope website up and running for design submissions and donations.

His campaign surpassed his initial goal of $15,000 to almost $17,000 as of Friday.

"It blew up so much more than I thought it would," Seger said.

The winning helmet design by Tyra Collumbin features the hashtag "#endALS" prominently on the back of Seger's head.

"It's a tragic disease because it kind of takes away all your hope," Seger said. "You're basically guaranteed to face this inevitable decline. There's nothing anybody can do about it right now because we don't have we don't have a cure yet. 

"But I have to say there's been a lot of ways that my dad has, through all this, taught us how to live at the same time. It's such a powerful thing. There's so many ALS patients out there who are huge, massively inspiring to the people around them. 

"I know so many people in our circle, so many family, friends have said that to me about my dad. So as sad as it is, I'm incredibly proud of the way he's handled this whole thing, and made such an impact on me, my brother and so many people in our circle."

Mark Seger wrote in an ALS Action Canada post in 2020 "although my world is becoming progressively smaller and I need more help from family, I face each day choosing to focus on what I still can do rather than what I cannot."

His son is donating proceeds from his helmet fundraiser to ALS-B.C.'s Project Hope, which is the creation of a professorship at the University of British Columbia for research and clinical trials.

Friday' downhill was called off after about 25 centimetres of snowfall overnight and another 10 predicted over the day made course grooming in time for a noon start difficult.

Sunday's super-G caps the season-opening World Cup for the world's top speed skiers.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2021.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press