Enthusiastic AC/DC fan Steve McNeil says he’s feeling inspired to push even further with his marathon skate for Alzheimer’s research, after the fundraiser gained support from one of his rock idols.
The Toronto hockey referee says a $19,260 donation from the Australian band’s guitarist Angus Young was a shock at first, but it has motivated him to consider extending his campaign for Alzheimer’s awareness with another stop.
“I’d like to go down to Gander, Newfoundland and do one last skate in honour of our military families battling this disease,” McNeil said in a call from Winnipeg, where he finishes the seventh leg of his ice “skate-a-thon” fundraiser on Thursday afternoon.
The 57-year-old postal worker has been skating for 19 hours and 26 minutes in each of Canada’s NHL cities, dressed in AC/DC gear and playing the band’s rowdy albums on his earbuds for the entire skate.
The annual fundraiser began in honour of his mother who battled Alzheimer’s disease before dying in 2013. But it took on another meaning after AC/DC’s rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young — Angus’ late brother and bandmate — was diagnosed with dementia a year later.
“I just thought it would be a really cool thing if … I only listened to AC/DC,” he says of the duration of the lengthy skate, which honours his mother’s 1926 birth year.
“It kept me going through the wee hours of the night. A lot of air guitar.”
McNeil encourages Canadians to pitch in $19.26 to his cause, but he says a significantly higher donation arrived after a man approached him in Calgary on Saturday. The band’s drummer, Chris Slade, has a son who lives in the city, and he brought his family to the rink after seeing local media reports.
Once he chatted with McNeil, Slade’s son offered to call up his father in Las Vegas for a video conversation.
A few days later, a $19,260 donation was made to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario by his bandmate, McNeil says.
All of the attention sparked by AC/DC has inspired the skater to think bigger.
Already this year he expanded the marathon run past its original home base in Toronto, heading to Montreal, Ottawa before going to Western Canada.
McNeil says he hopes to add an eighth skate on the East Coast near the Canadian Forces Base in Gander, if he can find a sponsor.
“The vision I have is I’m in the bottom of the C-130 (Hercules aircraft),” he says. “I would skate with all the men and women that keep us safe around the world.”
He also would love to see AC/DC rock out in a private rock concert for the troops.
Before he chases any further dreams, McNeil will finish off his seventh skate like he does all the others by playing “Gone Shootin’” as the last track.
“I’ve got to get myself mentally prepared to do this each time. It’s easy to do when you’ve got that crankin’ in your ears,” he says of the music.
“It’s something that keeps your blood flowing through your body.”