Seminarian Parker Love will receive $3,200 from the charity event to help with his staggering medical expenses from a mountain bike accident in July.

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Seminarian Parker Love will receive $3,200 from the charity event to help with his staggering medical expenses from a mountain bike accident in July.

December 16, 2013
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

For four years, Brian Maraj, the academic dean at St. Joseph's College, has been helping others through his love for squash.

In October 2010, a student's brother suffered a spinal cord injury. Two months later, Maraj played squash in an effort to raise money for the young man's substantial medical expenses. The special fundraiser was dubbed Doing Something I Love For Someone We Love.

"I love squash and I wanted to do something for this student that would raise his spirits," said Maraj.

Raising the spirits of others has now become a common theme for Maraj. He initiated squash fundraisers for three students with spinal cord injuries: Terry Tanove, Brett Babcock and Katie Burgess.

On Dec. 4, he again took to the squash courts at the University of Alberta's Van Vliet Centre, raising money for two causes, including the medical costs of a Regina seminarian.

Dubbed the "Maraj-a-thon," he played for eight hours straight, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., only taking short breaks between games for basic rations like coconut water, mangos and nuts.

With the college matching the funds donated, Maraj raised about $7,000 for Free 2B Me, an organization that funds kids and teens with disabilities.

He also raised another $3,200 for the family of Parker Love, a seminarian from the Regina Archdiocese. Money is still coming in for both causes.

Love, 25, was badly injured in a mountain bike accident near Canmore July 20.

"I went head over handlebars after hitting a mogul while going too quickly. I landed on my head," said Love.

Part of his spinal cord was badly injured. He broke his clavicle and collarbone, and fractured three ribs, in addition to sustaining other injuries. The next day, he underwent surgery to realign his vertebrae, with doctors inserting some screws to hold everything in place.

He was billed $13,000 for an air ambulance ride from Calgary to Regina. He was also hit with two big ambulance bills in Calgary. He requires special supplies in the bathroom, and a better-than-average wheelchair, which also come at hefty prices.

Brian Maraj

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Brian Maraj

Love has received other contributions to help pay his bills, but nothing as comprehensive as what Maraj has done with the squash marathon.

Since the mountain biking mishap, Love has been on pain medication and goes for physiotherapy on a regular basis. He works on his basic conditioning, flexibility and arm strength.

LEARNING ALL OVER AGAIN

"Everything I do now is trickier. I can't just get up in the morning and put my pants on," Love said. "I am learning those basic skills all over again. There is physical therapy where I do muscle-building things like working on transferring out of bed onto a chair."

Love, born and raised in Regina, completed his bachelor of arts in honours English from the University of Regina. Then he began a spiritual journey that culminated with his Baptism and Confirmation in the Catholic Church at Easter 2012.

For his conversion, he credits the Holy Spirit, his parents' entry into the Church the Easter before, and the influence of several virtuous Christians in his life.

Love enjoys playing board games, reading, writing and having a good conversation. He also enjoys watching Monday Night Football and eating Chinese food.

"I will always be impacted by the accident," said Love, who has regained considerable strength in his right leg.

"There's a possibility that I might be able to walk with some sort of assisted device, whether that's braces in my legs or crutches or a walker or something like that. Likely, my primary mode of transportation will always be my wheelchair."

Recently out of rehab, he is gradually regaining his independence. He is living with his parents as he continues his recovery.

Beyond financial support, his fellow seminarians from St. Joseph Seminary have been praying for him, and various people send him letters of moral support.

DISCERNMENT GOAL

"My goal has always been to discern the priesthood. I had anticipated on returning next September, and I don't foresee anything changing. I hope to return to the seminary in September and continue to discern," he said.

Love said that even if he is not ordained a priest someday, he will not consider his time at the seminary a failure.

"If I walked into the seminary on Day One and said I'm going to become a priest, then that would be an immediate red flag. It is not our choice to be a priest. It is a call from God. We have to listen because sometimes it's not explicitly clear," said Love.

DAY-LONG GRIND

Maraj said his day-long squash marathon is a grind. "But it pales in comparison to the struggles that some of the people we play for face on a daily basis. If we can show a wave of support for them, we hope it helps to lift their spirits."

He played at least five opponents per hour, estimating that he played against a total of more than 40 people. His only loss was to a young woman on a squash scholarship at Dartmouth University in the U.S.

GOOD SPORT'S RESPONSE

"Her education is being paid for by her squash ability – so I didn't mind losing that one," he said.

Maraj, teaching since 1983, has taught and researched in such areas as vision and locomotion, motor learning, motor development, sport and spirituality.

He has worked at York University, McMaster University, University of Colorado in Boulder, Louisiana State University, University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand), and the University of Alberta.