When a handful of local firefighters took Gord Roblin on a personal tour of the Agassiz Speedway this September, everyone was moved by the act of kindness.
They carried him in his wheelchair and walked with him as he met with the drivers at the annual meet and greet event. For Roblin, it was a night at the track to remember forever.
But for another man in the stands, that act of kindness was the impetus for an annual award.
Henry Planje was so moved by the firefighters’ actions that night, he knew that he had to recognize it in a meaningful way. So, he set out to create the Robert J. Planje Memorial Cup, in honour of his brother.
He awarded the Memorial Cup to Agassiz firefighters Ross McInroy, Alan Pryor and Simon Ozzard at the Speedway’s annual banquet earlier this fall. The inscription on the large cup reads: For assisting the challenged in motorsports.
“My brother succumbed to foul play over a domestic struggle,” Planje explained. His brother was mentally and physically challenged, he added, and had let a man he didn’t know live with him in his Chilliwack trailer home.
Planje was considering evicting the man when they got into a heated argument that led to Planje’s death on Dec.13, 2010. Planje’s roommate, Steven Frederickson, was later convicted of manslaughter.
“We want to put a positive spin on (my brother’s) life,” Planje said. “It’s totally appropriate to have a professional trophy to recognize these men.”
The cup will be awarded annually to someone who has helped someone with the physical or mental disability in the motor sports world.
“I do think these people need some recognition,” Planje said. “What these guys do, they go into terrible conditions and go to horrible accidents, and after all they’ve done, they still give more.
“They’re wonderful, wonderful people,” he said.
Roblin, who needs a wheelchair to get around, has been a fan of the Agassiz Speedway for most of his life. He was surprised to be carried onto the track at this year’s meet and greet, where he was able to get up close and personal with the cars and drivers.
While Roblin can’t remember exactly when they started going to the track, he knows hasn’t missed a race night in years.
“It goes way back,” he told the Observer in September. “Back when dad was with us.”