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Stittsville dad to walk across Ottawa to raise money for Youth Services Bureau in memory of son

Greg McPherson, manager of Cooligan Martial Arts and Fitness Stittsville, will walk from Orleans to Stittville on April 16.
2022-04-09 aric McPherson 2
Aric McPherson. (Photo/Greg McPherson Facebook page)

It was two years ago when Greg McPherson had his wife drop him off on St-Laurent Boulevard at Montreal Road in the city’s east end.

It was a deliberate decision he made the day before so he could walk back home, a moment he took on as meditation and grounding moment from the pandemic and to reflect on the loss of his son.

The next year, the manager of Cooligan Martial Arts and Fitness Stittsville did it again.

This year, however, instead of doing it for himself, he’s decided to make it a more meaningful stroll by making his walk an opportunity to fundraise for the Youth Service Bureau — an organization that helped his late son Aric during dire moments, before his death from a drug overdose three years ago.

“This is the first time I’ve really talked about it out in the open,” McPherson told The Sam Laprade Show on Thursday, April 7. “He was dealing with a lot of mental health issues. I got a call from him around 2016. He was at CHEO and decided he needed help. I went and spent the night with him there and he was admitted into the CHEO mental health. And for years we dealt with that.”

As McPherson puts it, the bureau was an invaluable source of support for his son.

“They were a great help, a great resource. I’m very thankful that they there were there. He hit a snag leaving the youth services and going onto the adult services, and he needed help and it just wasn’t there for him. He got heavily into drugs to try and feel normal.”

Aric, McPherson said, was an energetic child who loved to read — so much so, his parents would joke he wouldn’t leave any books left in the library for others to read.

In fact, he even finished reading — and understood — the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy before his eighth birthday.

“He would go up to the library and carry so many books back from the library on all different subjects, it was amazing,” McPherson remembered. “He achieved his black belt at a young age, he was popular at the DoJo, he had a University credit at 15 years in bio-ethics. This boy just had so much knowledge and love of life.”

And on January 6, 2019, McPherson said he got a call that no parent should receive: Aric had passed away.

He was 22 years old.

“Through his years of addiction, we heard after he left us that so many talked about how he saved them from addiction — he saved their lives,” McPherson said. “You don’t see it coming until it’s too late, and when you get there a lot people don’t know the services are out there for them because it’s not something they’ve needed.”

And one of those services that helped Aric in times of need was Ottawa’s Youth Services Bureau — an organization the McPherson remains grateful for.

So fundraising for the organization that helped his son only made sense.

“We’ve been living for three years now with grief, with the loss of our child, so this is what I need to do,” McPherson explained. “I get out there and I just walk. I do things, I just ground myself. Some days are easier to get through than others.”

He added, “I just want to be able to do something. This year, my walk is the first one that’s not just going to be for myself. This year, I decided I was going to do a fundraiser. I was going to walk anyways, so this year I decided I was going to open myself up and do something for our community.”

As of Saturday, April 9, McPherson raised about $6,211 — he hopes that number grows to $10,000 by April 16 when he starts his walk in Orleans to Stittsville.

Donations can be made through the bureau’s Facebook page.

If Facbook isn’t possible, then McPherson said donations can be made through the Youth Services Bureau website, but not through his campaign. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you make the donation under McPherson’s fundraiser or individually through the website, as long as donations are made.

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