May 28th, 2024

Ric ‘Sluggo’ Suggitt’s memory honoured with Logan Boulet Award

By Lethbridge Herald on December 4, 2021.

Ric Suggitt alongside his wife and children. Submitted photo

Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald

The man nicknamed Sluggo has won an award named after the person he inspired.

Former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s rugby coach Ric Suggitt was honoured posthumously with the Logan Boulet Award in recognition of a selfless act that helped save lives.

Suggitt was recognized nationally Nov. 29 at an annual event in Ottawa hosted by Canadian Blood Services.

“I don’t think I was expecting an award like this,” said Suggitt’s wife, Jennifer. “Just because it’s the Logan Boulet Award and that we have a close relationship with the Boulet family, it just makes it more meaningful.”

In late June 2017, Suggitt suffered a brain hemorrhage which took his life. Before he passed, he made a critical decision to donate his organs.

His decision inspired Logan to also sign his organ donation card.

In April of 2018, Logan was one of 16 people killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, but his decision to become an organ donor inspired hundreds of thousands of Canadians to sign their organ donor cards, creating the Logan Boulet Effect.

Suggitt and his family moved to Lethbridge to coach the Horns women’s rugby team after coaching national teams in Canada and the United States.

There, he reconnected his friendship with Toby Boulet – Logan’s father – who was the university’s rugby team manager, and became Logan’s trainer shortly after.

“We lived here for maybe 19 months when Ric passed away. Ric was friends with Toby, just because of the Alberta rugby community,” said Jennifer “When Logan came back from hockey that spring, they were looking for a personal trainer, Logan and a few of his buddies, and Ric was more than happy to do that. He just liked the work ethic of Logan and these boys.”

Suggitt would start his day mapping out his workout plans for Logan and his friends, said Jennifer.

“We would get up in the morning and make some coffee and Ric would be on his computer saying ‘I’m going to make the boys do this today.’ But I think they loved it and they worked hard,” she said. “Ric was always a gregarious, bigger-than-life kind of guy, especially when he was coaching, and very inspirational in many ways. I think he really liked the coaching aspect of his job, but (also) also asking his athletes to give back to the community, which was also a big part of Logan’s upbringing. They just worked well together.”

Logan’s mother, Bernadine, said the family was touched to see Suggitt win the award named after their son.

“Logan was inspired by Ric and the fact Ric and Jen decided Ric would be an angel donor,” she said. “That’s what really inspired Logan and if that hadn’t happened, Logan probably still would have been an organ donor, but it just happened faster. He was 20-years-old when Ric passed away and he was impacted by Ric and Ric’s decision. The fact that Canadian Blood Services has chosen to recognize Ric is important because he and Jen and the family is where it all started and if it hadn’t been for that, we may not have what we have today with organ donation.”

Bernadine recalled the workout regimen Suggitt put Logan and his friends through.

“One week it would be Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the next week it could be Tuesday and Thursday. He would have them do all kinds of crazy things,” she said, recalling some grueling runs in the coulees when it was wet. “They were running on the grass and the mud and they were sliding and were on their bellies. For these kids who had trained with trainers before, it was totally different. Ric was coming up with all kinds of crazy things.”

That included workouts at the U of L pool that actually became a source of amusement for others who happened to be pool-side.

“Ric would use the life-saving dummies that the lifesaving programs would be using. So the boys had to swim those out,” said Bernadine. “It got to the point where if Ric was going to take the boys into the pool it became a spectacle where other people in athletics would want to go and watch.”

Bernadine said the relationship Suggitt established with Logan and his friends went beyond the summer months they trained.

“It would be to the point where Ric would send them little things to work on, not only a strength and conditioning person, but he also worked with their mental health and when things weren’t going well,” she said. “They had a relationship that was fun and he worked them hard and I think Logan always appreciated that. (Training) was always something different, exciting, interesting and challenging.”

With her husband and Logan’s actions, Jennifer said she’s hopeful the word about the importance of becoming an organ donor and having that all-important chat with one’s family is reaching people.

“I really hope so, because what the kids the kids and I took away from donating Ric’s organs, we got up to the ICU and working with the organ donations team at the Foothills Hospital, a wonderful group of people, and I just expected there would be a line of people donating their organs. This is what was going on in my head and they were saying ‘Honestly, four is a really good month for us and one an average month.’ I was really shocked by that.”

Suggitt’s actions, however, reached those Pronghorns he coached in addition to Logan.

“When he passed, we weren’t outspoken that Ric’s organs were donated, but we made that statement,” she said. “We chose to donate Ric’s organs and that had an impact on his players and his team and I think they took it upon themselves to look at other ways that living donors can help. People just took it upon themselves to do more.”

In the summer of 2017 shortly after Suggitt’s passing, Logan spoke with his father about his intentions to follow in his trainer’s footsteps and become an organ donor.

“We probably would have still done that down the line, but maybe not when he did,” said Bernadine. “It was Ric who would be that first rock into the water that set those ripples. So the conversation Logan and Toby had and the conversation Logan had with his billet brother about being an organ donor makes a difference because that’s one of the big things we always talk about, having that conversation with each other.”

Suggitt’s inspiration continues in one of his former athletes, Horns rugby player Keegan Brantner, who is a regular plasma donor.

“She’s brought that to the Horns to do that,” said Bernadine. “That has become the legacy and something that they do. There will be people who won’t be so much inspired by Ric, but the legacy will be there because they know that’s what they do. Keegan started it because of Ric. Other people may not know that, but they know the Pronghorns women’s rugby team does this. They go and donate plasma.

“I think we all hope we inspire people to do that and we never know so much what our legacy is or how we’ve inspired people. It could be years later.”

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