It was probably November, 2018 when I first heard of Camp My Way and Dr. Terrance Kosikar (who was at that point, just Terrance Kosikar).
I was at school walking through the library building when I came across my friend Brendan Greenway (affectionately known as ‘Westham’ for the WestHam United soccer jersey he continually wore to rugby practice). He was organizing a ‘gear drive’, collecting camping and outdoor supplies for this camp. He shared with me an iteration of Terrance’s story: a first responder on the scene at the tragic incident in which Nodar Kumaritashvilli passed away. Terrance’s fall from grace as his invisible injuries left him homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Terrance’s moment standing at the precipice of the Lions Gate Bridge. His choosing life and his heading into the wilderness. The man that appeared before him as he attempt to fall a tree for warmth. The same man’s (whose name I’d love to learn) generosity in inviting the starved and freezing Terrance over to his place for warmth. Terrance’s subsequent ask for food that garnered the legendary response “Well then we had better go fishing”. And then Terrance’s ‘natural’ rise thereafter built upon an unrelenting drive supported by the weight of a gigantic tractor tire.
The next day at school I walked past Westham’s booth. Westham wasn’t there, but I stopped to ask his group mates how the gear drive was going. While I was there, a couple students came up to that table to ask what we were doing there. I responded by reciting the story I had heard days before (with twice the gusto might I add), and made the ask for them to both donate any gear they might have and to attend a speaking event featuring Terrance and a few notable friends the following week.
So the following week, I myself attended this speaker’s event with my friend Char.
The night opened with drumming ceremonially performed by a future mutual of Terrance’s and mine, Vince.
Then Terrance was slotted to speak for 45 minutes,
after which Captain Dale Lundy of the Salt Spring Fire Department.
Then an honourable veteran Max, who had suffered tremendous trauma at the hand of both explosives and loss,
and finally a teenaged boy Harley, who had lost his father would all speak to what Camp My Way was doing and has done for each of them personally.
His talk was one of the most real, authentic presentations I had seen to date. I had never witnessed such vulnerability in interlaced with such a bad ass demeanour and aesthetic.
I felt for him in each step of his journey. Bad circumstances lead to worse situations intermingled with harsh realities. The one thread through it all for me was that I could see this man’s innocence. And I saw that it wasn’t without his relentless work in self forgiveness. They say that if you can see a truth in someone else, you can see it in anyone… perhaps me too.
There’s a lot I could say about that evening, but you’ll have to give me a call to get the rest.
Earlier that year, one of my best friends, Colin Ruloff passed away in a dirt biking accident. He was from the small community of Bowen Island where he returned to, to go out for a rip with his younger brother. The Responders to the call were people that had known Colin since the moment he graced this earth. They all had watched him grow up with their kids, in their community. I knew how hard Colin’s death was for me and could only imagine what it would have been like to respond to the call. I knew something else too, that Colin’s parents, Walt and Laura Ruloff saw to it that the people on that call had the means to seek counselling.
Terrance’s presentation brought to light for me that while you may not know the person that doesn’t make it when on a call as a first responder, the job is not without impact. Or rather, the job has huge impact on people’s health and livelihoods, and the health and livelihoods of the families of first responders. Terrance also knew through his travels to Europe that other countries didn’t have these same issues. Countries like Germany in-fact do not have first responders committing suicide by the hundreds like in Canada.
The next day, I knew I had share with Terrance the impact his presentation had on me and that I would like to help him and his cause how I could.
A year and a half later, Terrance asked me to join him as he walked through the plan for what would have been an event that he had scheduled for June 5th, 2020. It would be the epic conclusion of to a 30 day marathon of flipping his 400lbs tractor tire up a mountain to summit a local glacier. He also asked if I wanted to assemble a team that would take part in the journey up the mountain in May. I tentatively said yes.
I arrived to Jack Poole Plaza to witness as Terrance set the stage for this event. With us, was of course the legendary Jillian Brown, as well as representatives from fire departments, police departments, North Shore search and rescue, the Reserves, the Vancouver Convention Centre, a film maker, and the Georgian community. We walked through the parade and procession as Terrance had envisioned it, the only limitation placed by the Convention centre rep was having a helicopter land on the crowded plaza. But everything else was a go. It was extraordinary. I can’t wait to see what unfolds to this end post pandemic.
We gathered afterwards at the Cactus club opposite the plaza for lunch. On my right, the former Police Chief of the VPD, to my left, was a gentleman who rode a BMX bike across Canada, to his left sat our friend the Ian Thompson who’s accomplishments I can’t cite here but are no doubt momentous. Jillian Brown, who shared her story of portaging across America, hiking the canoes over the rockies with a broken foot sat across from me. Next to her, sat Terrance, who’s legend you have probably heard if you’re reading this. To put it lightly, I was surrounded by giants.
When I had to leave, Terrance walked me out and again asked me if I would get a team together to flip this tire up a glacier. The response this time was a resounding Fuck Ya.
Although who would be my team? As luck or whatever would have it, I happened to live with two living legends, Graham Swanston and Karina Lemoncrystals Christiansen. I approached them that night saying that I had proposition for them, but kept them waiting on the details for a few days. When I finally let asked them to join me, Terrance and Jillian as we flipped this tire up a mountain, they were in. Awesome.
Terrance said we needed to raise $6,000 to cover costs, and we got to work training and fundraising.
From there, I witnessed as my friends and family rallied around us to get us up that mountain.
Then the pandemic hit BC. Plans needed to be changed dramatically, but we were still in.
I wanted to more than just cover costs in our fundraising efforts, and as a team, we set the goal to raise $10,000. The following day we set another goal to flip our own tractor tires (courtesy of the Washington Kids foundation, the Capilano Rugby Club, and my parents who house a tractor tire my friend Malcolm and I found).
At this point, we had recruited another bad ass by the name of Jordan Harvey to join us on our adventure.
The final days leading up to the journey, Jordan let us know that his commitment to forest fire fighting wouldn’t allow the time to be with us physically. He let us know that may be an issue originally, but I am still grateful for his contribution of spirit, physicality, and fundraising efforts.
A day before we were set to leave, we had no suitable vehicle between the three of us. We looked at renting a truck, but on account of insurance limitations, the classic car rental agencies were no help. I looked into buying a truck and even took one for a test drive that night. It was then that I put out an ask to a broader group of friends, and Sean Sullivan answered the call.
Thanks to him, we were set.
But fuck if it wasn’t a stressful week taking care of last minute preparations amid school exams.
All of that stress quickly subsided as we 4X4’d up to where Jillian and Terrance had gotten the tire to over the preceding month.
The beauty, challenge, tranquility, and hustle was more than I can describe with words. There on top of the mountain we were free. Free to witness our own patterns and reactions that keep us down. Free to breath, and free to continue to rise up that mountain with that Tire.
Terrance asked us to think about why we were there. I thought about what it was about CampMyWay that fundamentally could change people’s lives. It came down to tools.
Tools, of which there are so many, come in a myriad of forms, most often to solve some problem. So if the problem is PTSD, or more broadly, being able to live in this mad world, what if any, are the universal tools to living?
Without leading you down a rabbit hole of philosophy and bullshit I endevored upon, I’ll give you an answer that is really simple.
Breathing regulates the poly vagal system for one (which you’ll have to look up), but functionally and universally is really the only thing that you need to do moment to moment to live.
What I learnt was the value and power of my breath on that mountain.
I have woken up stressed for years, struggling to make it until I find some external relief/distraction.
Terrance taught me a tool when we first met. I think he’s stacked a few more habits on there but I’ll just take you through the raw iteration I practice
There are a good many things that you can do to change your relationship to yourself and the world, talk and somatic therapy has helped me immensely, but even after that there are two things that Terrance has shared that I wish to share again that are free and always there for you. The first thing is, wait for it, is trees. Spending time in nature, with trees, allows you to write new code, practice new neural pathways that enforce beliefs that this world is a perfectly imperfect place. Trees are great. I had long known that trees were great, but Terrance reignited my relationship to them.
The second thing is the body scan breathing combo. It is something that I have done in stints since Terrance demonstrated this tool to me at the presentation when we first met, and has been a mainstay of my day nearly every day since coming down from the mountain. The way it works for me is that I made a commitment not to get out of bed until I’ve done the body scans and breathe. This is a habit that I find works really well for me as I have a constantly changing lifestyle that I love to keep flexible. One of the tried and true methods to getting a habit to stick is by ‘stacking’ it on to something you already do. Well if you live a life anything like mine, waking up is one of the few things that I invariably do every day, which makes it a great moment to take advantage of. So that’s step one, make the commitment. Step two, is two wiggle of flex every group of muscles and joints from toe to frosted tips. Doing this, you check off your body. Is there anything that you need need to attend to? Anything that requires immediate first aid? If so, by all means tend to whatever it is. If that’s not the case, simply note any part of the body that is giving you grief, and move on until you’ve ‘scanned’ your whole body. Know you have some concrete data that you’re probably not in imminent peril at this moment.
The third and final part of this process is to breath. Five seconds on the inhale, 5 seconds on the exhale, five times. Now in doing this, maintain your focus on your breath. Now Terrance is fucking hardcore if you didn’t already know, and he will stay in bed until he takes those 5 breaths without a single thought breaking his focus. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried, but it’s nearly impossible not to follow any one of the myriads of thoughts that might come to mind in a given period. Myself, I just work to stay focused on the breath and to follow any given thought as little as possible starting again only if things get too out of hand in the monkey mind.
It is also something that can be deployed at any point throughout your days to reset and move on if something rocks you, but when you need it, as I have when shit hits the fan, it really helps to have been practicing so you can proceed safely and considerately.
I want to end this by extending to you my gratitude for having taken the time to read my piece. I really mean it, thank you. You are so loved.