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Friends rally for paralyzed man’s family

Richard Morrison, pictured with his wife, Sheila, son, Johnny and daughter, Jessa. - Contributed photo
Richard Morrison, pictured with his wife, Sheila, son, Johnny and daughter, Jessa.
— image credit: Contributed photo

A White Rock man known for his positive outlook and enthusiasm for hockey suffered devastating injuries Saturday in what friends are describing as “a freak accident.”

Richard Morrison, 47, has been on life support at Vancouver General Hospital since breaking his neck playing drop-in hockey April 21 at Burnaby 8 Rinks.

“As far as I know, he was going in for a goal and then he tripped over a goalie pad and went headfirst into the boards behind the net,” Morrison’s wife, Sheila, said Wednesday. “He went headfirst and he just compressed his spine, and he broke his neck in two places.”

As of Wednesday, Morrison remained on a respirator, unable to breathe on his own. While that is expected to improve, the damage to his vertebrae is such that the father of two will never walk again.

Word of the tragedy has spread quickly since Saturday, as have efforts to help.

Brent Silzer, a local real estate agent who has known Morrison for about 20 years and was best man at his wedding in 2005, said more than $6,000 was raised in just two days this week, and donations continue to pour in for the family.

Donation sites have been confirmed at Sutton Group White Rock’s 24 Avenue office and J. Gregory Mens Wear in Peninsula Village (15355 24 Ave.); and a website to help collect funds and where people can go for updates was to go live April 25, at www.richardmorrisonfund.org

In addition, a trust fund is being established and fundraisers are in the works.

City of White Rock special-events co-ordinator Amy Baumann said the city’s firefighters have also committed to donating part-proceeds from their barbecue at the May 19 end-of-day celebration for the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay – set for 5-8 p.m. at the White Rock Community Centre – to the cause.

Baumann, whose husband played hockey with Morrison – who was also a regular to adult drop-in hockey at Centennial Arena in the winter – said she will do “whatever I possibly can” to help.

“He’s such a kindhearted person, just a very lovely man,” she said of Morrison.

Silzer expects support for Morrison will grow exponentially.

He described Morrison as “a really big community guy,” who has a wide circle of friends and is known by “everybody.” That he is now facing life as a quadriplegic is difficult to fathom, Silzer said.

“Things happen to people every day,” he said. “It’s sad that it happened in such a freaky way to guy that’s got a bigger heart than anybody I know… a guy that’s just so good.”

Born in France, Morrison moved to the area from Edmonton about 22 years ago. He has been working in real estate for Sutton Group and as a HandyDart driver in recent years, but got to know many in the community during his earlier years as a bartender, Silzer said. He worked at the Sandcastle Club – where he and Sheila met – Sandpiper Pub, Artful Dodger and Ocean Beach Hotel, among other establishments.

Sheila Morrison said she was drawn to her husband from the first moment they met.

“Right off the bat, we couldn’t get enough of each other.”

And hockey was always a big part of the picture. In addition to regular play with the Titans Hockey Club at Planet Ice in Delta, the Oilers fan would get up at 6:30 a.m. every Saturday to play drop-in games in Burnaby.

Injuries on the ice weren’t out of the norm for her husband, so when the call came around 9 a.m. Saturday with news an ambulance had been called, Sheila Morrison figured it was just another broken arm.

Now, she’s looking ahead to when she’ll have to sell their two-bedroom condo to find a home better-suited for her husband’s needs, and holding out hope that the limited mobility he has in his arms will at least spread to his fingers.

Her husband realized the gravity of his situation Tuesday, she said.

Sheila Morrison said it will be at least six months before he can come home – he has six weeks in VGH’s spinal unit ahead of him, followed by up to four months at the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre.

Whatever progress he makes in the coming months will have a lot to do with their children, she said. Johnny will celebrate his sixth birthday on Saturday; Jessa will turn four on May 15.

“With the kids, he’s just such a hands-on, fun dad,” she said. “I think he’ll do anything so he can do stuff with his kids again.”

She described the outpouring of support in the community – from donations to offers of help with the kids – as “amazing.”

Silzer said anyone wanting to pitch in can also call him at 778-387-7997 or email brentsilzer@gmail.com

 

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