Sue Benton proudly wipes away a stream of tears from her face just following the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike ride in Williams Lake last Tuesday.
Her Curves client, friend and inspiration Rosel Tremblay just completed a mountainous climb both women played an instrumental role in attaining.
For Tremblay, it’s been an uphill battle. She suffered a stroke in 2009, just prior to the Big Bike ride where she’d planned to ride as a member of the Curves team.
“It was about a month before we were going to do the ride,” recalled Benton, who owns the Williams Lake Curves gym. “We were notified Rosel had had a stroke. She was laid up in the hospital recuperating — she was in there for the whole summer — but in the mean time she made sure to get all her pledges to our team for the ride.
“She made a goal she would be on that Big Bike the following year.”
The next year, Tremblay arrived at the Big Bike ride as a member of the Curves team once again — stronger than she’d been the past year.
“She worked out at Curves once she got out of the hospital and she’s worked so hard,” Benton said. “It was just seven months after her stroke, and her progress has been absolutely amazing. She went from using a walker, to a cane and now she’s strong and fit.”
Her second year back at the event, once again stronger than the previous year, Tremblay was able to complete a few laps around the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex parking lot, where the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike departs from annually.
This year, undaunted, Tremblay arrived again as a member of the Curves team. She calmly placed her cane on the ground next to her belongings and approached the Big Bike confidently. With a bit of help she reached her seat — a triumphant smile beaming across her face as the bike and its passengers rode off down Proctor Street.
Several minutes later, as the riders made their way back into the parking lot, a chorus of cheers erupted to greet the team. Tremblay had pedalled her way throughout the city for the first time since setting that goal three years ago.
“It was really fun,” Tremblay said. “This was my first year doing the actual energy of the pedalling and it’s good to get back in the spring of things. I’m not as tired as I used to be, either. At this time of the day I’d start getting tired and want to go have a nap.”
Benton added it’s so satisfying to have watched Tremblay’s hard work pay off in the form of progress over the past few years.
“Every year she’s gone a little bit further and a little bit further and this year is actually the first year she’s done the whole loop,” Benton said. “We’ve worked really hard for this day and I’m just incredibly proud she’s come such a long, long way.
“She’s such an inspiration. I knew Rosel before she had her stroke — she was a member at the gym. Her mom came by the club and told us she had had a stroke and was in Kamloops, but that her first words after she became coherent were: ‘Please tell Sue I’m going to come back to Curves real soon.’ And she did, seven months later.”
Benton, however, isn’t the only person to have gained inspiration from Trembly. During her first year back on the sidelines at the Big Bike ride she also caught the eye of another Williams Lake resident, Anna Dell. Coincidentally, Dell recalls, both were wearing tiaras which drew her to Tremblay, immediately.
Dell, too, has been volunteering with the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike for the past three years.
“It started when I was the B.C. Ambassador,” Dell said. “I came here and rode the bike in my crown and banner and that was when Rosel had first had her stroke. She was part of the Curves team but she was on the sidelines in a wheelchair very enthusiastically cheering along. The two of us got to chatting and took some pictures.
“When I came back the following year to volunteer she was here and she actually got on the bike and did a few laps. It was so inspirational.”
Dell, at the time, was competing in the Miss Canada International competition. Tremblay’s story and friendship travelled with Dell all the way to Ontario for the competition.
“I actually chose the Heart and Stroke Foundation as my national platform and when I shared my personal experiences — going from the Jump Rope for Heart to this — just her story and watching the difference in just one year of seeing her on the Big Bike was so inspirational, so I carried that story to Ontario for the competition and passed it on to the Heart and Stroke Foundation national office.”
This year Dell asked to sit beside Tremblay for the ride. Tremblay happily obliged.
“That just topped it off completely,” Dell said. “It’s amazing to see the progression and how far she’s come.
“For a small town, the way that everybody comes together to help is just really cool.”
Tremblay has one piece of advice to give — and she wants everyone to listen. Through all her battles and struggles there’s one thing she hopes to pass along to others.
“I just want other people to go out there and do the same thing,” Tremblay said. “Don’t be lazy.
“Get out there and exercise … It’ll help you.”
Greg Sabatino photo
Sue Benton (left) and friend Rosel Tremblay prepare to ride the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike last week.