Edmonton

Edmonton man, 60, grapples with 60 people in 60 minutes to fight child sex abuse

The feat by the black belt professor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to take on 60 fighters in 60 minutes raised $62,000 for Little Warriors.

'You’re gonna grapple 60 people in 60 minutes on your 60th birthday?'

Hal MacDonald grapples with one of 60 opponents at Rodrigo Resende Academy on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (Gabrielle Brown/Radio-Canada)

Hal MacDonald celebrated his 60th birthday party on Saturday and fought 60 of his guests. 

The feat by the black belt professor in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to take on 60 fighters in 60 minutes raised $62,000 for Little Warriors, a local charity dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse.

"It was easier than I thought," MacDonald joked during a tearful speech at Rodrigo Resende Academy on St. Albert Trail following the bouts against athletes from over 15 different gyms in the martial art combat sport.

A crowd of over 100 people chanted 'Let's go Hal!', as he went head-to-head with his opponents. 

"It's overwhelming," MacDonald said. "I hope everybody in their life gets to feel this, but it's not about me, it's about the kids."

Child sexual abuse is an issue close to MacDonald. 

Sister was abused

His sister Donna Saskiw was abused by a neighbour as a child.

Saskiw, 56, wasn't surprised by her big brother's feat. 

"For Hal I'm not surprised that he'd do it because that's who Hal is," she said, noting her four brothers, mother and father supported her after the abuse. 

"I'm one of the lucky survivors, I had support," said Saskiw. "A lot of them don't." 

The money raised is enough to send two to six kids and their families to the charity's treatment ranch for a year. 

Little Warriors founder Glori Meldrum, a survivor of child abuse herself at the hands of her grandfather, was floored when MacDonald first approached her with the idea. 

Little Warriors founder Glori Meldrum. (Gabrielle Brown/Radio-Canada)

"You're gonna grapple 60 people in 60 minutes on your 60th birthday?" Meldrum exclaimed. 

MacDonald and his family are a model for the kind of support survivors deserve, she added.

"I really hope other families out there see this and go 'You know what when our kid comes and discloses, we gotta be there, we gotta believe them, we gotta stand behind them, we gotta rally them, we gotta get them support,'" Meldrum said. 

One in three girls, and one in five boys are sexually abused, Meldrum said, and in 95 per cent of the cases, the offender is known to the child. 

Saskiw called it an epidemic. 

"When this is all put to bed and the dollars are accounted for and this is forgotten, we can't forget that this happens," she said. "This is bringing more light and that's what we need, we need a bigger light on this."

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).

With files from Jordan Omstead