Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue community comes together to honour young fitness buff

·2 min read
Zacharie Richard, 20, had been an outdoorsman since childhood.  (Submitted by Annette Vézina - image credit)
Zacharie Richard, 20, had been an outdoorsman since childhood. (Submitted by Annette Vézina - image credit)

The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue community is rallying behind a local family that's raising funds to create an outdoor gym for residents in honour of their son.

Zacharie Richard was only 20 when he died of a heart attack on June 5. His death came as a shock to many, as he had been an avid athlete all of his life.

"Zach would always say, 'You don't need much to train, you just need to use your head,'" his mother, Annette Vézina, said.

Richard's family started a GoFundMe campaign on July 18 to finance a haven for anyone who relishes exercising outdoors as he did.

The memorial outdoor gym for Richard is planned for Harpell Park, at the heart of the town, near the community centre.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Donations have poured in to raise the $48,000 needed for "Le gym à Zach." Over the course of three days, the family amassed more than half of their goal.

The memorial outdoor gym already has Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa's full support.

"You can't possibly say 'no' to something like that," she said.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Hawa says the response from residents is a testament to the town's deep appreciation for the Richards, a family that has been anchored in the town for almost a century.

"I'm not surprised at the response to all of this," she said. "I have never seen anything like [Richard's funeral] with people lined up for half an hour just to be able to give their condolences. It touched the community very closely."

'A gym for everyone'

A true fitness buff, Richard had been working out at the John Abott gym since he was 14.

As his passion for fitness grew, he accompanied his mother to training sessions, improved his weightlifting technique by studying fitness videos on YouTube and developed exercise programs for his friends to get them interested in their health.

He was 18 when he biked from Glacier National Park in Montana to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming — a distance of 1,200-kilometres.

"We knew he had the capacity," his mother said. "He was smart. He never took unnecessary chances."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Richard found a second home at McGill University's outdoor gym on the MacDonald Campus in St-Anne-de-Bellevue four years ago.

"When he found that he just thought it was amazing to train outdoors, not with weights but using your own body weight," she said.

The resourceful son Vézina fondly remembers, who climbed trees and used rope to pull up logs from atop branches as a way to bodybuild, would have wanted his love for fitness to be his legacy, she says.

"It's a bit bittersweet," she said. "That's why we want it to be a project that the community participates in … so they actually feel like it belongs to them."

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