As a child growing up in Holland, Auke van Holst watched as more than 10,000 skaters passed on the canal behind his home during the famous 200-kilometre Eleven Cities Skating Tour. Decades later, the former Western professor has combined his love of skating with his artistic talents, as a way to say ‘thank you’ to the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.
“I spent my working career as a physical educator. So, sport and physical activity has always been a big deal in my life,” said van Holst, who taught at Western for more than 20 years before retiring in 1997. “I really admire the dedication of top athletes in pursing excellence, and I see that same kind of attitude here at Fowler Kennedy, getting people back to an active lifestyle.
“This is a world-class facility we have here and I really wanted to honour that.”
Now adorning the walls of the clinic are four metal sculptures of Canadian Olympic speed skater Christine Nesbitt. The 3-foot-by-4-foot wire murals, which took more than 80 hours to complete, even caught Nesbitt’s parents, Wayne and Judith, off guard upon the unveiling Tuesday morning.
“I recognize these images,” said Earth Science professor emeritus Wayne Nesbitt, whose wife was brought to tears. “I think that one was taken from a spring meet in Calgary at the beginning of her career. And that last one is quintessential Christine. She is one of the only people, when skating, who brings her arm all the way back and over her head to get momentum. These are wonderful.”
The mural is also a personal thank-you to the staff at Fowler Kennedy for the work they’ve done over the years with van Holst’s family.
“My family has spent a lot of time in this clinic. They’ve done a lot of patching and rehabilitating for us,” he laughed, noting only his son, Michael, has not needed the services of Fowler Kennedy. “I felt it was an appropriate time to give back to them for all they’ve done for us and the entire community.”
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Fowler Kennedy executive director Kanina Blanchard said she couldn’t think of a better present.
“It’s goes beyond a thank-you,” she said. “I’ve worked in a lot of places, but never have I seen the kind of heart that Fowler Kennedy has – from the staff to the patients to the relationship that is built. I can’t imagine a more beautiful testament to that relationship than for Auke to take the time, energy, thought, care and attention to create something like this.
“It speaks to that relationship between our patients and the folks that are treating them.”