Glasgow-born Nick Lees found his way to Edmonton in his early twenties. “I arrived with $50 in my pocket and got a job digging sprinkler ditches at the Provincial Museum and Archives.” He was fired two weeks later for sleeping in a manhole after a party. Lees, who had worked in London’s Fleet Street, soon landed a job at the Edmonton Journal and covered the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. He acquired the nickname “Nick Danger” after writing about such experiences as driving in demolition derbies and parachuting with the Canadian Airborne Regiment. His column often combined his love of the outdoors with a long-time interest in helping others, a trait he credits to his parents.
Over the past 35 years, Lees has raised an estimated $8 million for a host of charities, ranging from the Arthritis Society and the Salvation Army to the Stollery Children’s Hospital and Kids with Cancer. He ran in the 100th Boston Marathon; cycled 1,750 kilometres back from Haida Gwaii to the Stollery with a totem pole; founded or led many familiar fundraising events; skied the 55-kilometre Canadian Birkebeiner many times, and acted as host, MC, or auctioneer at countless fundraising galas. He encouraged his running friends to complete many Edmonton Marathons carrying a ladder and selling the rungs to support charity.
Over the years, Lees has broken his collarbone three times and his arm once. He’s had two hips replaced and needs a new knee. But he has no intention of letting up. This June 19th, Lees will lead the CASA cycling tour from West Glacier, Montana, to Jasper to support CASA, providers of mental health services for children, adolescents and their families. Among other awards, he has received both the Queen Elizabeth II Silver and Golden Jubilee medals for his community work.
“There was great satisfaction in completing marathons, but it’s helping the community that brings peace to the soul. I was fortunate to have run out of money in a great community, where people care and opportunities are boundless.”