The invitation to a foot race set Dave Murphy on the path to changing his life.
In 2018 he was leaving the neighbourhood park with his daughter. The pair were walking back to their Calgary home when she asked her father if he wanted to race home.
The now 45-year-old Murphy was pushing 400 pounds and still dealing with the ramifications of a late-night altercation in Ontario more than two decades earlier. He was 17 then and that altercation left the Grand Falls-Windsor native without part of the muscle in his left leg.
Parents can have a hard time saying no to their children, and Murphy is no different. However, due to his health, he had to tell his daughter they couldn’t race.
The look he was met with sparked something.
“That look of disappointment on her face, I will never forget. That lit a fire under me,” said Murphy. “That was the thing and the biggest reason for her and my wife, to be around longer for them.
“I was headed in a bad direction.”
He was 391 pounds when he started, and he now sits at 235 pounds. Almost three years later, Murphy has dropped 155 pounds and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
When he started, Murphy set himself a 100-pound goal to reach. To help keep himself in check, he added a stipulation to that goal.
For every pound he lost, he would make a $1 donation to military veterans and first responders.
“First responders saved my life in 1994. I was attacked and knifed 13 times, so I wouldn’t have even made it if it wasn’t for first responders,” said Murphy. “So, I needed a way to stay motivated, so I made a pledge online that I was going to lose 100 pounds and donate a dollar a pound.”
The son of preachers — his parents were Salvation Army officers — Murphy always believed in paying it forward. At each of his family's stops, he saw the benefits of giving and supporting something bigger than himself.
First responders saved his life in Ontario, and he has spent the last two-plus decades paying them back.
It started with dropping off a tin of coffee at fire stations every week and that morphed into several other initiatives that supported military veterans.
Things like sending Tim Hortons gift cards to soldiers and The Gratitude Project were a way for Murphy to say thank you.
“I just want to pay it forward and help as many people as I can,” said Murphy.
To date, Murphy figures he’s donated more than $3,000 with the help of people who have matched his donations to the volunteer organization Can Praxis.
Can Praxis is an organization that offers mental-health recovery programs to Canadian military veterans and first responders who have an operational stress injury or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Founded in 2013, the Alberta-based group uses equine therapy to accomplish its goals.
“Dave has done great and his support for Can Praxis and for veterans and first responders has been meaningful,” said Steve Critchley, a facilitator with Can Praxis.
Weight loss journeys are never easy. Ask anyone in the middle of one.
For Murphy, there were days when he didn’t want to hit the gym or head to his boxing sessions.
On those days, he’d think of his family and of the first responders he was raising money for.
“They're running into burning buildings and fires while people are running out of them, and here I am not wanting to go (to the gym),” said Murphy. “Whenever there is a day I don’t want to go, I think about those guys and I’m like, ‘alright, let's go.’”
Benchmarks for success come in different forms. When looking at the work Murphy has done for his well-being, these benchmarks come in the form of his family.
It was an interaction with his daughter that started him on his fitness journey and it’s another interaction with his daughter that reaffirms his commitment.
Often the pair would go to a play centre near the family home. Whenever his daughter would hit the obstacle course, Murphy would sit on the benches and watch.
There was no way he could muster the energy to join her.
Before the centre’s shutdown due to the pandemic, Murphy was able to hit the course alongside his daughter.
“I got a second chance at life,” said Murphy.
Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice