Calgary

AC/DC rocker Angus Young donates for Alzheimer's, inspired by Canadian fan's 19-hour skates

A hockey ref has been skating for 19 hours and 26 minutes in each of Canada's seven NHL cities while blasting AC/DC to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer's societies. And his efforts caught the attention of not just one but two of the legendary band's members.

Hockey ref Steve McNeil listens to favourite band on skating marathons to raise money for dementia patients

Angus Young of the band AC/DC performs at the Olympic Stadium in London in 2016. Young has pledged to make a donation to Canadian Alzheimer's research and supports after reading about a fan's skating challenge. (Mark Allan/Invision - The Associated Press)

A Canadian hockey ref's unusual fundraiser for Alzheimer's research has caught the attention of his musical heroes.

Steve McNeil is from Toronto but has been travelling across the country to skate for 19 hours and 26 minutes in each of Canada's NHL cities, raising awareness and money for local Alzheimer's societies. 

His effort is a tribute to his mother, who had the neurological disease, and to Malcolm Young, who co-founded the iconic Australian rock band AC/DC and died from dementia in 2017 at age 64. 

Now the musician's younger brother, band co-founder and lead guitarist Angus Young, has donated $19,260 Cdn to the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, McNeil said.

He asked the society to distribute the money to dementia music programs across Canada.

The society confirmed it had received the donation and told CBC it would be used for music therapy.

"It's funny how things work in the world, but rock-and-roll is such a powerful tool," McNeil said when he heard the good news. "This is AC/DC. This could open so many doors."

Angus Young, front centre, carries a guitar as he leads the casket of his brother Malcolm Young at his funeral in 2017. (Dean Lewins/AAP via The Associated Press)

The band's accountant, Vicky Granados of the accounting firm Prager Metis, says Young and his wife, Ella, "stumbled across" an article about McNeil's 19-hour skates and asked her to write CBC for more details about supporting his fundraiser.

Malcolm Young played rhythm guitar, sang backing vocals and co-wrote many of the songs before his untimely death. His brother and wife have also had other family members and friends who suffered from Alzheimer's.

'An emotional lottery'

McNeil says he's had Malcolm Young top of mind throughout his marathon skates. When he gets cold in the brutal Canadian nights, he cranks AC/DC and imagines his mother's good cooking to stay warm.

"It's like touching an emotional lottery. You've got to understand, this is what's been my driving force," said McNeil.

"When I go out in these conditions, that's all I listen to because it's my tribute to Angus and the boys — because I know they lost a big part of their family."

Chat with AC/DC drummer

At the Calgary skate on Saturday, another AC/DC band member reached out to McNeil. Drummer Chris Slade has a son who lives in the Alberta city and saw the story.

The son brought his family to the rink and they video-chatted with Slade.

"I was a little giddy, I'll admit that," McNeil said.

Steve McNeil met the son of AC/DC drummer Chris Slade at his skate in Calgary on Saturday. (Steve McNeil)

They talked about Malcolm Young and McNeil's mother, who lived with Alzheimer's for nearly 20 years. McNeil named his challenge #1926Skate after the year of her birth.

The length of his events also pays tribute to the long days that caregivers spend on dementia patients, he says. McNeil cared for his mother before she went into a nursing home.

​McNeil heads to Winnipeg next, hoping to wrap up his NHL city tour at the Forks on Wednesday afternoon.

"Life's too short to take anything for granted. I wear those AC/DC pants, I wear them proudly," McNeil said.

"Tomorrow I'm going to step on the ice, and I'm going to begin accomplishing the seventh of seven cities outdoors in Canada in February.

"How cool is that?"

More than half a million Canadians are living with dementia, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. That figure is expected to nearly double in 15 years.

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.