Don Devenney has take the notion of helping out a friend to new extremes.
The 53-year-old View Royal resident is heading to Morocco in April to take part in the Sultan Marathon des Sables, a grueling 250 kilometre run stretched over six sun-baked days across the Moroccan Sahara desert.
Devenney, who has served as a West Shore RCMP auxiliary constable for the past 16 years, is running to raise money for the Canadian Arthritis Society. He draws all the motivation he needs from his friend Rhonda, who appeared to have cleared a few health hurdles before she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a few years ago.
“I was training for a marathon and was thinking about Rhonda. I thought I’m out here running and there are days when she can’t even get from the bed to the couch,” said Devenney, manager of the IT department at Canadian Sport Centre Pacific. “I offered to try and raise some money to help with the cost of her treatments in the U.S., but Rhonda would have none of that, unless the money I raised went to help everyone with her condition.”
Devenney managed to raise $2,700 by approaching people to sponsor him in a marathon in 2009, and approached Rhonda and the Canadian Arthritis Society about doing the same in the Sultan Marathon des Sables.
He applied to participate 18 months ago, found out last February that he was selected in a lottery to take part. He has been training ever since.
“Rhonda and the Canadian Arthritis Society were eager to jump on board,” said Devenney, a veteran of six Ironman triathlons, six marathons and numerous other events, including the Tour de Rock in 2008. Despite that experience, he is quick to agree that the upcoming event is in a class of its own.
“It’s a huge undertaking, and I don’t really know what to expect. With the Tour de Rock, I knew what I was getting into, but this is a whole different level, unknown territory,” he said. “They supply a tent and water every day. Everything else you need you carry in a pack on your back. I’ll train hard, show up at the start line and give it my best shot. Rhonda’s not getting any better, so I draw all the inspiration I need from her and her amazing daughter.”
The opportunity to help fellow citizens and friends such as Rhonda and work with a variety of challenges is what keeps Devenney volunteering as a West Shore RCMP Auxiliary.
“The members and staff are just great to work with,” added Devenney, who also uses his hobby as a an instrument-rated pilot to volunteer with Angel Flight of B.C., flying primarily cancer patients from remote areas to Vancouver and Victoria for treatment.
“I was inspired to do that by one of the kids I met on the Tour de Rock,” he said.
Devenney is fortunate to have Mike Suminski, a well-known ultra-marathoner and running coach, helping him prepare for the Sultan Marathon des Sables.
“I’m also getting a lot of assistance from some of the specialists at Canadian Sport Centre Pacific,” he added. “You couldn’t find a better place to work.”
A recent fundraiser he organized with assistance from the Victoria Academy of Swimming raised $750, and donations to the webpage set up with the Canadian Arthritis Society have already topped $1,100.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to Running for Rhonda can do so at arthritis.akaraisin.com/p/running4rhonda.aspx.
—Rick Stiebel is the Langford-RCMP community liaison.