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Riding for Wayne (3 photos)

Wayne Russell recently passed away, but he still 'had their backs' at the Big Bike charity ride last week

This was this first year that the staff of BDO Canada’s Sault Ste. Marie office did the Big Bike charity ride without Wayne Russell.

Well, they actually sort of did.

In 2004 BDO employee Del Morris had a stroke and passed away at 48 years old.

When BDO decided to ride the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike in honor of Morris, Russell took on the charity event as his personal project, fervently raising funds and organizing staff to participate.

“I think he was passionate about the cause because Del Morris died from a heart disease when he was relatively young. I think that emotionally effected Wayne,” said his wife Judy Russell. “Also, all of his brothers died of a heart attack, his dad died at 56 of one, and from that, doctors said Wayne's heart had to be monitored when he was only in his 30s.”

Tragically, Russell himself died of a heart attack this January.

Every year until his retirement in 2013 Russell had organized the Big Bike ride.

This year, in honor of his work and because he himself died of a heart disease, Russell's former BDO coworkers honoured him by riding for him while wearing photos of him on their backs.

“Wayne has our back,” said Russel’s ex-coworker Rose Rousseau, who organized the event this year.

After retirement Russell didn’t take as much of an organizing role but was still the highest fundraiser by far.

He often won awards for his fundraising said his wife.

It was always a pleasant reunion with his old colleagues in the post-retirement years he rode the big bike.

Rousseau said Russell was loved by everyone at the office.

“I would say that he probably mentored all the accountants that were at BDO with their careers,” said Rousseau.  “He would help anybody. He always had patience to stop what he was doing and help and, he wouldn’t just leave it at that. He was the guy that would follow up and make sure you were okay with what you had originally needed help with.”

Russell had a talent for really taking the time to understand things – be it new computer software, accounting methods, or programs - and then he’d take that knowledge, simplify it, and then explain to his coworkers.

Rousseau said that Russell is still very much missed around the office.

“To this day, at work on regular occasion, myself and other coworkers often say, ‘Where’s Wayne when you need it?’”

This was the 13th time the BDO Sault Ste. Marie rode the Big Bike.

Perhaps because it was to honour Russell, the bike was completely full with 29 employees and some even had to be turned away.

BDO Sault Ste. Marie raised over $12,000 for heart and stroke research and just surpassed their $100,000 milestone for combined funds raised over the years.

Based on what friends and family are saying, Russell could very well have raised around half of that money.