It was the phone call every parent dreads.
Nicole Webber remembers it like it was yesterday.
“I was teaching a Zumba class,” said the personable Nanaimo mom. “My husband called me. He said there was an accident.”
On March 10 of this year, a workplace accident at a fish farm on northern Vancouver Island claimed the life of Aidan Webber. He was just 18 years old and one of the nation’s top young BMX riders.
“You don’t even think it was possible with such a young, healthy person,” said Nicole. “It was incredibly traumatic. There are still times when we have to remind ourselves he’s gone. It’s hard every day. I’ve definitely had a few moments when I’ve felt him here, like he’s sending us messages. I look forward to being with him again.”
Aidan won the junior men’s title at Cycling Canada’s BMX national championships in Drummondville, Que., last July. In 2017, he was awarded the Steve Smith Memorial Award for achievement in extreme sports after winning the national championship in 2016. He raced around the world, representing Canada at world championships in Colombia, placing fifth on the U.S. national series and training in France.
Join USA BMX & BMX Canada as we honor the memory of Aiden Webber with the 1st Annual Aidan Webber Memorial Race and Pro-Am on Saturday, Sept. 28th at Nanaimo BMX in Nanaimo, BC Canada on Vancouver Island. Sign up for the $10 Opens, as proceeds going to Aidan’s Legacy Foundation. pic.twitter.com/H4ASg60xxE— USA BMX (@usabmx) September 20, 2019
This week, the BMX community comes together to honour Aidan, whose on-track moniker was ‘Animal’, with the 1st Annual Aidan Webber Memorial Race and Pro-Am on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Nanaimo BMX track. There is a $5,000 minimum pro purse, with a salmon barbecue and proceeds going to Aidan’s Legacy Foundation. Registration is from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., with racing immediately after.
Friday (Sept. 27) a sold-out beer and burger fundraiser will take place at the Old City Station Pub and a regular Nanaimo race day takes place Sunday, Sept. 29 with a pancake breakfast and proceeds again going to the foundation.
Poignantly, Saturday would have been Aidan’s 19th birthday, so the celebration will have extra meaning.
“Aidan started BMX when he was four in Cumberland,” said Nicole. “The officials put him on the half-track because he was so little. But he was so good, the rest of that day he was on the full track. From that day forward, he was absolutely obsessed with BMX training. He took his own training wheels off at two-and-a-half. He was all things two wheels. It was our life as a family.”
The Webbers moved to Nanaimo in 2014, having already been driving down twice a week to provide Aidan with more racers of his own age to compete against.
The BMX community as a whole in Nanaimo and elsewhere truly is a family. Nicole readily agreed.
“Oh my gosh, everyone has been incredible,” she said. “Social media has such a negative portrayal these days, but it’s such a valuable resource in times like this because people can reach out so easily. Nanaimo BMX, everyone has been incredible. The BMX community at large is fantastic. I’m really looking forward to this as a positive event.”
She said “we’ve had a funeral, we’ve had a celebration of life and this event is to honour Aidan’s legacy”.
“He was physically such a beautiful child and man, incredibly strong and confident,” she said. “Racing at that level comes with a certain amount of cockiness but he always had a sense of humour. Everyone wanted to be around this kid, me included. So charismatic and kind. He took on so many kids and mentored and coached them.”
“It’s hard…” she continued, trailing off. “Quinn (Aidan’s 16-year-old brother) and I are determined to live very good lives to honour him. He lived every day, whether it was 4x4ing, snowboarding or skateboarding.
“I discovered he was so many people’s go-to person, someone they could rely on. He was that for me, too. For such a young person he was such a big man.”
Nicole said she is especially proud of how Quinn, who will lead Saturday’s flag lap, is dealing with the loss of his best friend.
“He is an amazing kid,” she said. “It’s not easy. He’s started the CTC auto mechanic program at VIU full-time. He is honouring his brother by having a good life and being driven.”
Nicole hopes this weekend’s events are just the beginning in terms of building on Aidan’s legacy and promoting the sport of BMX and the important lessons it offers.
“The time and money I spent devoted to his BMX career, not one penny was wasted,” she said. “It taught him such amazing life lessons. Work hard, have goals, be kind and compassionate, be coached, coach, race fiercely, live fiercely. There was no better way to raise these boys of mine into really good men. We owe it to our children to provide these opportunities. If we can somehow help some other family to help their children live their dream through sport, every dollar will be so worthwhile.”
She said she was thankful for the support in helping her family heal.
“This is our family’s project to carry out Aidan’s dreams for other kids and to keep his memory alive,” said Nicole, noting her daughter, Cassie, in Ottawa is expecting a boy, whose middle name will be Aidan. “We’re never going to forget him. There is strength in feelings. And what everyone is doing here is amazing.”
Nicole says she’ll be front and centre this weekend.
“I’ll be there, selling tickets to the salmon barbecue and raffle,” she said with a laugh. “And I’ll be talking about the foundation.”
Exactly how Aidan would have wanted.