It’s one thing to say you believe in someone or a cause, it’s another to back it up.
Former Red Deer College student Curtis Hargrove is putting his feet and his wallet where his heart is.
Hargrove has popped up in the news before, most notably for his run across Canada in 2012 that raised money for the Stollery Children’s Hospital.
But his latest run and cause will take him from Port Alberni, B.C., to Hollywood, Calif.
The 26-year-old is trying to raise awareness and support for Angel Magnussen, an 18-year-old girl from Port Alberni with Down syndrome. She works all day, every day making blankets for terminally sick children around the world.
His goal is to get on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and to coax the TV personality to come to Vancouver Island and make some blankets with Magnussen.
“She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met, she doesn’t ask for anything,” said Hargrove of Magnussen. “Most people’s dream is to go on Ellen’s show — she doesn’t even need to go on the show, she just wants Ellen to come to her studio, dance with her and make some blankets.”
Hargrove is hoping to reach Ellen or her producers through video and social media, pushing the hashtags: #hugginzhwy #hugginz #runwithit and #ellen.
Magnussen has a very simple philosophy about life: if you can help someone, then you should.
It is an infectious attitude that is hard for those in her life to not gravitate around.
“You ask her why she does this and she says, ‘Because sick kids need help, they have to get better, they need to get better,’ ” said her mother Cheryl Magnussen, noting Angel also suffers from autism.
“A really unique thing about her is the rest of us see a million obstacles in the way … but she just sees they need help, so let’s help. We don’t think about all of those other things, and Ellen should do the same in Angel’s mind, that she should respond and say ‘You’re right, let’s help.’ And that’s exactly what Curtis is doing. He’s jumping in without having the financial support in place, knowing it’s going to happen and having that faith and trust.”
Angel does not watch much TV — she would rather spend her time working in her studio, Hugginz by Angel, where she makes 10 to 13 blankets a week.
One of the few programs she does watch, however, is The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but only online and after her work for the day is done — though often the show’s music can be heard throughout the studio as she dances away while sewing.
She has been inspired by DeGeneres and her own philanthropy and helping those in need.
Angel believes that if she can get DeGeneres to come north and help her make some blankets, it will encourage even more people to pick up the cause.
“She knows Ellen helps kids like she does, so that for her is really important … and she just wants Ellen to come here and sew so she can continue helping kids,” said Cheryl Magnussen. “It’s not about going there and being on her show or anything, she’s not looking for that.”
Although her mother would just appreciate some help with the expenses — they spend $1,000 a month on shipping the blankets while Angel burns through 40 to 50 metres of fabric a week.
She was able to set up her studio in the last year with help from Telus’s Give Where We Live campaign and has been hard at work since, despite three separate surgeries on her jaw.
“She’s got over 60 kids on her list right now, there is some strict criteria because the list is that long,” said her mother. “When kids are dying, their parents request it because they wrap their child up in that blanket … and when that child passes away, they feel like their child is being wrapped up in love. Then they have the blanket to carry on and hold and love. It means a lot to them.”
Angel Magnussen and Hargrove have a unique relationship.
They met at the 2012 Grey Cup in Toronto.
They were both there as part of the CFL’s Scotiabank Game Changers promotion that recognized people like Magnussen and Hargrove from across the country. Magnussen was there on behalf of the B.C. Lions while Hargrove went as the Edmonton Eskimos’ representative. An all-star panel decided on the winner of the promotion with $100,000 to go the charity of their choice. Angel won and the money went to Variety — The Children’s Charity of British Columbia.
But the two formed a close relationship, and have since stayed in touch through Skype, Facebook and phone calls. When it came time for Angel to graduate, there was only one choice in her mind to be her escort for prom, and Hargrove flew out to be on her arm.
While there, Hargrove became immersed in Hugginz by Angel, and even made a few blankets himself.
“The fact he stayed here and did that, it endeared him to her, she knows that one day when she meets the right guy, she wants him to be like Curtis,” said Cheryl Magnussen.
This summer Hargrove had planned to play for the Central Alberta Buccaneers senior football team — who he has participated in a number of charitable initiatives with — but instead decided he was going to devote himself to this new run, dubbed Hugginz Highway.
The run will start on May 31 and be approximately 2,200 km, much shorter than his run across Canada, but with worldwide potential.
In other runs, he has gone across B.C. and Alberta for the Terry Fox Run and has also taken part in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign for YWCA of Edmonton — but in Hargrove style, instead of just one mile, he walked the 185 miles from his hometown of Cold Lake to Edmonton in high heels. For that pain and suffering, he raised close to $10,000.
To complete this run, Hargrove expects it to cost him about $25,000 to get him and his support van, driven by Morgan Seward, to Hollywood. He is looking for sponsorships to help cover costs while any funds left over will go to Hugginz by Angel.
The run will take him about 50 days to complete as he runs 50 km a day through all weather conditions.
“The toughest part is waking up the next day knowing you still have another 50 km to run,” said Hargrove, adding Seward was his driver across Canada in 2012 and is an essential part to his run. “It usually takes the first six to eight km to get the feeling in your legs back. Your legs are sore, you’re running over a marathon a day, everyday. But the way I see it, I’ll go through any amount of pain just so Angel can get a hold of Ellen.”
Hargrove has been recognized for his fundraising efforts in the past, including a nomination for the National Philanthropist Award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2014 and was a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award in 2013.
His selflessness comes from his grandfather Richard Lasouski, who he is quite close to. When Hargrove was in Grade 12, Lasouski was diagnosed with prostate cancer, inspiring Hargrove to do his run for Terry Fox, raising $50,000.
“I decided to do that run for him and Terry Fox, two of my greatest idols, and I’ve just continued on helping various charities in need,” said Hargrove.
For more information on the Hugginz Highway run, go to www.facebook.com/chargrove15, http://hugginzhighway.wingsforangel.com/ or http://hugginzbyangel.com.