In some ways, the Défi sportif AlterGo is a gift. The gift of time invested in organizing it and ensuring it runs smoothly, the gift of safe and functional spaces… Volunteers are a symbol of this. Some are very committed to the act of giving, including Vincent Richard, a former participant in the Défi and a volunteer ball hockey referee at the Michel-Normandin Arena this year.
Shortly after Richard’s birth, a transfusion went wrong. The injection left him paralyzed. He required various types of therapy to regain the use of his body. After that, he tells us, he was on the autism spectrum. Although he may have had a difficult childhood, he has cleverly transformed his disability into an advantage. He’s not just a “hockey guy.” He’s also a member of the band Les Détestés. He has been singing since he was four or five years old and playing the drums since his teens. When he needs to learn a new song, he just has to listen to it once or twice and he knows the lyrics by heart. And the drums? Same thing. With Les Détestés, he sometimes performs on stage in performances that showcase his headstrong nature.
“At first, before going onstage, I’m really scared. I shake. I chain smoke. But once I take my first step onto the stage, all that evaporates.”
So Richard is a hockey fan, and drummer, and a singer. But he also donates his time to community television, does the play-by-play for senior hockey, and has been refereeing for Hockey Québec since 2009. He loves sports, which is probably why he felt so at home when he first attended the Défi sportif AlterGo with his school, Jean‑Baptiste‑Meilleur. He won a gold medal in shot put and two more in ball hockey.
“At the time, in 2013, when I was 19-20 years old, I was trying to find myself. I told a lot of lies, and I did stupid things because I was insecure. For me, the Défi sportif AlterGo was the kick in the pants I needed. Being here and refereeing ball hockey is my way of saying thank you.”
Richard’s lack of self-confidence and direction led him to some dark places. He readily admits that the Défi sportif AlterGo saved his life. That’s because while being competitive, the event is also inclusive. Through competition and encounters with new people, he found the self-esteem he lacked.
“We’re all equal. No one is better than anyone else. I like the feeling of inclusion. Whether you’re a referee, an athlete, or a volunteer, you’re part of the family. People have no idea how grateful I am. It gave me a second wind and the will to keep going. I like giving better than receiving. When I give, it takes a 2,500 kg load off my shoulders. If I commit to giving and I fail, it puts me in a foul mood, to the point that I’ll give twice as much, three times as much.”
With people like Vincent Richard on the team, the Défi sportif AlterGo has the helping hands and the heart to keep moving forward.