An enthusiastic group of students and staff from Humboldt Collegiate cheered on Brent Worrall as he handpedalled his way into the Humboldt Uniplex on Monday. Worrall made the 400 km trek from Swift Current to Humboldt over the weekend, fulfilling a long time dream.
Worrall is an ex-motocross racer who has faced more than his share of challenges and tragedy. An accident on the track left him a paraplegic, but in speaking to about 450 Humboldt students gathered in the curling rink, he relayed that his challenges began long before his life altering accident.
As a young man in Chilliwack, BC, Worrall discovered the excitement of motocross racing, but he also discovered its inherent hazards. In his talk, Worrall explained that after abandoning the sport that had thrilled him, he struggled with feelings of emptiness and disconnection.
Worrall described a pivotal moment in 1981 where, returning from a race near Thunder Bay, Worrall’s family encountered Terry Fox on what would be the last leg of his marathon of hope.
“As we rolled by Terry, at the time, I just felt, just sensed the importance, and the emotion in Terry as he rolled his head and looked into my face. It stayed with me forever.”
Years later his passing encounter with Fox and later with paraplegic Rick Hansen, whose Man in Motion Tour inspired millions, would help solidify his resolve to rise from his despair and work for supporting others.
The injuries Worrall suffered, both physical and emotional, led to recurring periods of addiction to painkillers and alcohol. During a stretch of sobriety, Worrall discovered the excitement of horse racing, and more to the point, gambling. Again, looking for the rush he’d been missing, Worrall immersed himself willingly in co-owning a racehorse. He continued to bet, which he explained, soon began to gain a control over him similar to substances.
Worrall’s journey prior to his major accident, he explained, was punctuated by the loss of several friends, a failed marriage and disconnection from his children, and more trauma surrounding his return to racing 27 years after he first gave it up. His diagnosis of PTSD provided some explanation as to the nature of his struggles, but he continued to process the information and the trauma at its heart.
With the support of his wife and repeated urging of friends and colleagues, Worrall penned the memoir, Motocross Saved My Life.
“One of my friends said, ‘if you wrote a book, I would buy it and read it. Somebody else said, ‘you should write a book, you’ve got a lot of stories’. Finally, one of the most respectable media guys in our country for our sport said, ‘Brent, you should write a book’.”
Armed with encouragement, Brent hooked into the cathartic process of writing, thereby dealing with elements of his traumatic background.
He became committed to doing the hand pedal bike journey, connecting the communities of Swift Current and Humboldt. Their respective Broncos hockey teams and community members and families have been travellers through misfortune, and Worrall found the thought of delivering his message about mental wellness and self-care to those audiences appropriate.
A message of support followed from former Humboldt Bronco Tyler Smith by video. The audience was invited to meet Worrall and his team following the gathering.