Dale Ohler's life is better off due to help of MR student

A mix of compassion, athleticism and business savvy was the recipe for a successful fundraising effort by a Mount Royal business student, who set off on a 1,000-km bike trip to buy a vehicle for an injured family friend.

Hardman rolled into Stavely, Alberta on Aug. 9 after cycling nearly 1,000 kms in a fundraising effort for Dale Ohler.
Slavely, AB farmer Dale Ohler's life was irrevocably changed the night a car accident left him paralyzed. It was changed again when MR student Dave Hardman raised enouhg money to buy Ohler a customized ATV so Ohler can still can around his farm.

Ohler, a Stavely-area farmer was paralyzed in a truck accident last December. So, Hardman decided to cycle to raise money to buy a customized all terrain vehicle to help Ohler get around his farm even though he's now paralyzed.

Hardman, a fourth-year student in Mount Royal's Bachelor of Applied Business and Entrepreneurship, has been close friends with the Ohlers for 10 years.

He performed in the Young Canadians with Ohler's son Riley and virtually became a member of the family.

"We accepted Dave as a son," says Dale. "He came out to the farm quite a bit and made himself at home. He fit into our family really well."

After Ohler accident in December 2008 left him paralyzed from the chest down, a devastated Hardman knew he had to do something to help the man and the family he calls "super giving."

"Dale would teach me how to drive tractors, vaccinate sheep and put tags on cow's ears," Hardman says.

Ohler is now confined to a wheelchair and unable to do farm work, which inspired Hardman to offer to raise the money for a new Polaris Ranger.

This all-terrain vehicle will let Ohler motor around the farm and return to some of the work he can't accomplish in a wheelchair.

Hardman says "this will give him more freedom - he's such an active guy. Right now his wife Tracy is doing a lot of the chores he used to do."

Hardman was initially planning just to raise money for the Ohlers to fulfill his directed field studies program, but his professors asked him to actually develop a business. And he's done just that.
MR entrepreneurship student Dave Hardman rode between 100 and 225 kms a day on his quest to raise money to help a good friend.
Not only did he list his fundraiser with, he set up a website and produced a CD featuring local musicians, including Emily Lamb, The A Cappella Fellas (Hardman and Riley's band) and Hardman Vanden Enden.

He sold 100 copies of the CD, called Love and Talent, for $15 each.

Hardman also created a Facebook group for his fundraiser, which has attracted 2,200 people so far, some of whom have donated to the ride.

He also found this was a great networking tool. "I've met people who've given me some really positive advice, or they're willing to help out and be a part of what I want to do.

"I had to do a tonne of things I wouldn't have learned through my courses in the business program, like writing a press release and doing interviews," Hardman says.

"It was very useful for the future. I've got a lot of media contacts now."

Mount Royal professor Alex Bruton taught Hardman a business strategy course and is impressed by his tenacity and success with this venture. "It's very much in the spirit of what we were doing in the class," he says. "This wasn't a traditional venture - what he's done is unique and of great importance."

As for the ride itself, Hardman found himself challenged by heat and rising terrain, but made it to Stavely from his starting point of Kelowna, B.C. seven days later, right on his target date.

In preparation for the journey he trained by riding to Elbow Falls and back, a distance of about 120 kms, most days - which was also the average daily distance he rode on his ride.

"My longest day was 225 kms, and that was tough.

"We were worried about him and his safety," Ohler admits. "But we kept close track of his ride. There was no stopping him - he's a man on a mission."

Hardman also had to deal with several flat tires and a back wheel which lost spokes for several kilometers before he had to stop to get it repaired.

Once back in Stavely, Hardman held a wind-up party, which raised cash and featured some of the artists from the Love and Talent CD.

"It was a really nice party," Ohler says. "Lots of our neighbours and friends came out."

The Polaris Ranger has been offered at cost by the Stavely dealership and will be modified by the company that customized Dale's wheelchair to allow him to operate it with his hands.

"He's such an active guy - he used to go wakeboarding, ride the quad around and herd the cattle," Hardman says. "Seeing him now, you want him to be able to do those things he can't do anymore."

The Ranger's arrival will be welcome, as crops will soon be ready for harvesting. "With the accident, I haven't got things set up really well," Ohler says. "The Ranger will let me check the fields, do the grain bins and get to the shop and check the cattle. It's pretty sweet."

"I think he's been aching to get out there all summer," Hardman says. "I wish I could have done this back in May."

Now that this goal has been achieved, Hardman next intends to apply for the Calgary Police Service, but he hasn't given up on his entrepreneurial ventures.

"I came up with this idea for a way to bring fresh water to Africa," he says.

His idea, which germinated in his business strategy class with Dr. Bruton, would see desalination occur in parabolic troughs lined with mirrors, which would generate solar energy to boil water.

"It would improve not just their health, but allow them to grow crops and would help their country in so many ways."

Testing will come first, and then if it's viable, investors would be chased. "It's a long-term project," Hardman says.

- Rhonda Greenaway, Aug. 20, 2009