Out of a tragedy came a legacy for two Collingwood friends who spent their time together giving life everything they had.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Ryan Lachapelle, 30, former Amazing Race contestant, charity founder and motivational speaker.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Collingwood. I feel super grateful that I grew up in Collingwood. It was the best thing for me, looking back now.
My parents still live there in the same house.
It was just the ultimate place to grow up. With Georgian Bay and Blue Mountain down the street, it was a blessing.
I went to Connaught Public School and Collingwood Collegiate Institute.
Q: You and your friend Kenneth McAlpine competed together on the Amazing Race Canada. How did you meet each other?
A: We met just before high school. He went to a different elementary school than I did, but we met through skiing at Blue Mountain and rollerblading at the skate park. We were the only two rollerbladers in town. When we initially met, we actually didn’t like each other. We hung out with different crews.
It wasn’t until high school when we had a class together that we officially met and instantly became best friends.
Q: How did you stay in touch after high school?
A: We always had this dream of moving out west and skiing in the mountains. That dream shifted a bit after high school. I pursued that and moved to Banff. I worked at Sunshine Village Ski Resort.
Kenneth ended up going into culinary arts school at Algonquin College.
After a couple of years, Kenneth moved out here and we lived together in Revelstoke, B.C. We made the dream happen together. We would ski the mountains everyday together.
After that, we lived in Australia together. We moved to Byron Bay and learned how to surf together. We easily had one of the best years of our lives.
After that, we moved to Rossland B.C. We lived together here for the first year, and then the Amazing Race Canada show happened.
Q: You and Kenneth competed as a team on season five of the show. What made you want to apply?
A: I had always thought about applying. I thought it was the coolest show on TV. I asked Kenneth and he was instantly down for it. We went through the long application process and finally got on the show.
We completely freaked out when we found out we were going to be on TV and race around the world.
Q: What was the show like?
A: It gives me shivers even now just thinking about it. It was unbelievable.
All the emotions you can possibly have, we experienced on that show. You have a cameraman and audio guy following you around 24/7, except when you go to your hotel room to sleep at night, and it was crazy.
You literally just rip open a clue at the start of every leg or episode and it says ‘Fly to here.’ Destinations were all over Canada, but some were like, ‘Fly to the Great Wall of China.’
It was insane, and an emotional roller coaster. But, it was one of the best times of our lives. I never really felt adrenaline like that. We embraced every moment of it.
That’s why we called ourselves Team Giv’r. This is how we lived our lives. We gave it all we had, and we tried to do that in all aspects of our lives.
We came in second place. We were extremely close to winning. We were super proud of ourselves.
Q: What happened after the show?
A: After the race, the response from our communities and the entire country was insane.
It was really touching and rewarding, and it really moved us. The response from kids and youth really fed off our energy.
We decided to do a motivational speaking tour around a bunch of different schools around Collingwood and the surrounding communities. We talked about our experience, our friendship, and obstacles we had to overcome. At the end of the day, we were proud that we gave it all we had, and we were happy with how we did and how we worked together.
Q: In 2019, Kenneth died in a mountain climbing accident on Mount Gimli. How did that impact you?
A: It changed my life.
It was a tragic moment. It came out of nowhere. It happened on his birthday.
The way it happened was tragic, but also beautiful at the same time. He was there to really conquer this mission of hiking this iconic mountain in B.C. by himself. It’s a feat in itself to get to the top of that mountain. It didn’t pan out how he planned.
It shakes me that his last name is McAlpine and he died in the alpine.
It’s taken a lot of time to process. I’m still processing and living with it.
In certain aspects of my life, I try to live like he did. He was the most caring person I’ve ever met. I try to carry that with me as I move forward. I try to keep my best friend’s spirit and memory alive.
Q: You started the Team Giv’r Foundation after Kenneth’s death. How did it start, and what did you seek to do through that foundation?
A: After Kenneth passed, there were quite a few funds raised in his honour. It was overwhelming at the time. We were planning to use the funds to have memorials both in Collingwood and in Rossland.
We really wanted to take it a step further. I had a few conversations about this with Kenneth’s parents and his younger brother about what to do with this money.
It made sense to create a living memorial of Kenneth and honour him in a way that gives back to youth and focus the foundation on Kenneth’s passions: skiing and cooking.
We wanted to give youth financial support to get them up on the mountain. We buy them lift tickets, equipment and passes so they can experience the same thing we did and maybe meet their best friend up there.
On the culinary arts side, we give students the opportunity to be a chef like Kenneth was.
Q: What is the Team Giv’r Foundation up to now, and what new initiatives are happening this year?
A: We’ve introduced a couple of programs and awards available for Collingwood Collegiate Institute students. There’s a Kenneth McAlpine Memorial Award that we started and a Team Giv’r bursary.
The award is for a student that is planning to pursue culinary arts in post-secondary school and embrace every moment along the way.
The bursary will be awarded to a student who really gives it all they have in life both in school and at play. We want them to plan on studying something they’re really passionate about.
On June 1 we launched our Team Giv’r Scholarship Program. We’re awarding four scholarships per year – two in the winter and two in the summer – of $3,000 each.
This was a huge step for us and will be a staple for the foundation. They’re given to young aspiring athletes that are looking to take their sports to the next level focusing on skiing and mountain biking right now.
Kids living in Collingwood or Rossland B.C. or within an hour’s drive of each of those two communities can apply.
Q: What other things outside of Team Giv’r do you do to take up your time?
A: I work as event co-ordinator for Red Mountain Resort.
I continue to try and live the dream. In the winter I ski as much as I can, and that’s my biggest love in life. In the summer, I mountain bike and surf and travel as much as I can.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: A lot of people in Collingwood know a lot about me based on my experiences. (laughs)
I live out here (in Rossland) and I try to visit Collingwood as much as possible, and try to give back to my hometown.
I am so incredibly grateful to be from Collingwood, and I never want to forget that.
Collingwood will always be home to me, no matter what.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email firstname.lastname@example.org.