“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long” is a saying often heard in remembrance of those who’ve achieved so much in so little time.
If that were ever so true, it would certainly apply to Quinton MacDonell, one of Sooke’s most talented young athletes, who, on July 23, passed away at the Royal Jubilee hospital with his parents by his side, following an eight-month battle with cancer.
He was only 19 years old.
Born Quinton William MacDonell to Don MacDonell and Sheryl Mae MacDonell, he already showed signs of a gifted nature in his early years by way of his stellar academic abilities and active approach towards sports.
And even though he often outshined those around him, he never much liked being in the spotlight, said Don MacDonell, his father.
“He just wanted his accomplishments speak for themselves,” MacDonell said, adding his son had received honour roll all throughout high school.
Sports is where his heart truly went, regardless of what he was doing, his father added. This reflected in his willingness to compete and take part in all kinds of sports in Sooke, notably hockey, soccer and fastball.
His love of sports particularly reflected in his desire to work at the SEAPARC — so much in fact that he volunteered over 190 hours, mostly towards teaching other youth skating and hockey. He was also thoroughly involved with the Sooke Minor Hockey Academy. This is where his silent way of leadership really shone through, recalls his mother.
“When he was in high school, he juggled SEAPARC, working at Village in the produce department and being at a leader at the Speedsource local gym,” she said. “That’s where he started developing his love for body-building and martial arts. He was all about sports and making friends that way.”
And always helping in some way. His mom recalls one time he didn’t come home once, when was spending most of his time at the SEAPARC.
“That night, I went to the arena and there he was on the ice with a little girl. He was helping her learn to skate. I went to the board and I said, ‘ Quinton, you told mom you were going to be home at five, and he just told me, ‘but mum, she can’t skate yet.’ He helped a lot of kids down there.”
Hockey brings up Quinton’s most memorable moments, not only though his involvement in the sport, but by way of his spirit of playing the game, said Kelly Lott, his hockey coach since he was just seven years old.
“He was a very competitive, determined young man. He took the game very seriously,” Lott said. “He had fantastic work ethics. His love of the game made everybody’s job in the coaching department very simple, because you could gain his attention by just saying it’s time to get on the ice.”
Lott added that Quinton always wanted a challenge; something new, something he’d never seen before. And even though his quiet nature carried on the same, his play on the ice was very different.
“He wasn’t a big voice in the change room, he wasn’t the big voice on the bench, but in his play, he commanded through and led through his actions,” he said. “He never stopped, whether it was win or lose, he would battle right to the end, because in his mind, if he stopped, then he’s already given up and lost.”
This personal drive to success went well past high school and sports — Quinton earned several scholarships, including one from the province. After high school, he got into the University of Regina to earn his bachelor’s in police studies.
It was at this point, in December 2014, when his illness began, with what first appeared to be an eye infection.
Even with one eye, he still managed to finish his exams and successfully complete a semester, noted his mother. Following another visit to an eye specialist, the news had come; a rare form of cancer had formed around his eye.
Not that Quinton ever looked backward; despite his condition, his parents recall his ongoing positive spirit, especially when he spoke with his grandmother — also undergoing cancer treatment at the time — the two encouraged each other constantly, dating back to a time when she would constantly come to watch his hockey games.
Even on his last day, he showed such strength, recalls his mother.
“He kept saying, I’m going to get there mom, I’ll get there.”
“He was positive right to the end; he kept saying, ‘mom, we’re going to beat this. We were three months in Vancouver, him and I,” she said. “He said to me, ‘I love you mom. Take care of yourself.’ Now we have to go on and show that strength as well.”
The Sooke community took a big hit when news of Quinton’s progressing illness first appeared. Back in February, all local hockey coaches held a special match at the SEAPARC to raise money for the MacDonell family, with one donor giving $1,000 in one shot.
“The Sooke community went above and beyond what anyone could ever expect. Not just the businesses, but everybody,” Don MacDonell said.
A special celebration will be held for Quinton on Friday, Aug. 7, at 2 p.m. at his favourite place, the SEAPARC. The MacDonells hope that anyone whose heart was touched by Quinton will attend.