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Heater's Heroes rally for children at Oakes Park

Alison Langley

By Alison Langley, Niagara Falls Review

Mike Strange and Dan Bouwman, of Heartland Forest, stand at the finish line at Oakes Park during the second annual Heater's Heroes Run for Children, Saturday.

Mike Strange and Dan Bouwman, of Heartland Forest, stand at the finish line at Oakes Park during the second annual Heater's Heroes Run for Children, Saturday.

 

While Mike Strange received a hero's welcome at Oakes Park on Saturday, the Olympic boxer was quick to deflect any attention from himself.

"I'm here because of Heater, this is really all about him and what he stood for," he said, referring to Bobby Lavelle, a well-known sports figure in the city who died of cancer in 2009 at the age of 60.

Lavelle, who was known around town as "Heater", was a mentor to the young boxer.

"He was like a second father to me. He did so much for Niagara Falls and so much for children," Strange recalled.

To keep his memory alive, and to carry on his legacy of supporting children's charities, a group of friends including Strange organized last year's inaugural Heater's Heroes Run for Children.

The event was such a success, raising $26,000 for Tender Wishes, it returned to Oakes Park on Saturday.

Participants were invited to walk the oval track, with each mile representing a young person who has battled a life-changing illness.

Strange walked his lap in honour of Kesley Hill, a 13-year-old Stevensville resident who died last December from brain cancer.

Kelsey was also an inspiration for Strange's Box Run which saw him run 3,200 kilometres from Thunder Bay to Victoria, B.C. to raise money to fight childhood cancer.

Also on Saturday, Strange presented a representative from Childhood Cancer Canada with a cheque for $100,000.

This year's recipient of the Heater's Heroes Run for Children was Heartland Forest.

The 93 acre property on Kalar Rd. includes wheelchair-accessible hiking trails, a barrier-free tree house and mini-putt course.

"Heartland Forest is a great place because it's accessible to all children," Strange said.

Dan Bouwman, founder and president of Heartland Forest, was humbled by the support.

"Mike and I just clicked because we both have hearts for children and we both believe in giving back to the community," he said.

"Now, Heartland Forest is getting bigger and better all the time because we are gaining momentum and have more and more partners in our community."

alison.langley@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @nfallslangley

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