This past March, one of the CFL’s biggest and most knowledgeable fans, Ritch Dowrey was the victim of a senseless and brutal assault that left him with severe brain injuries. The road to recovery will be a long one, as Ritch has to relearn to do life’s most routine things. Fighting his way through the coma he was left in by his attacker, Ritch is now in a group home in Langley where he needs constant care and he’s receiving daily rehab to try and get his speech and coordination back.
Anyone who knows Ritch or “3rd Down” as he’s known to his CFL friends will know that he loves his Lions, and he loves the CFL. Ritch could tell you stories of old Lions games, and recall great memories and stats from the past. He was never shy to be controversial on his opinions on the game, or the events surrounding it. For instance, when the BC Lions traded Ritch’s favourite player Damon Allen to the Toronto Argonauts, Ritch showed up at the tailgate with a BC Lions white jersey, that he unsuccessfully tried to dye blue. The point was made and his loyalty to “Gumby” never wavered.
Part of the rehab process for Ritch is to try and engage him in activities that used to interest him in the past, and the BC Lions certainly qualify. This day had been planned for about a month by his friends and family and the Lions organization. Ritch had plenty of interaction with players, and proudly sported his #1 Dowrey jersey that the club gave him when he was in the hospital. But sometimes things were truly meant to be. One of Ritch’s favourite Lions, Casey Printers, just happened to sign with the team the day before, and was attending his first practice on this day. Ritch was a staunch supporter of Casey through the years, and was always calling for the return of “Caseymania” to BC. Casey was the last one off the field, but took the time to sign Ritch’s jersey, talk to him a bit and pose for a picture with his biggest fan.
I’ve been visiting Ritch since he was in a coma. I’ve seen him make a lot of progress and I’ve often left him after a visit feeling sad. Not so today because it was inspiring to me to see his face light up when Geroy Simon came to say hello. To watch his eyes light up when his daughter Carolyn arrived, and the connection they had.
There is no doubt that Ritch is facing a third and long in life but he’s a fighter, and he’s come a long way. He seemed to enjoy and thrive at times today, and the next step will be to have him attend a game, hopefully this season.
Thanks should go out to Jill and Sheila from Connect Communities, Brittany Ramsay of the BC Lions and Ritch’s friend Lindsay Wincherauk for their help in making this day happen for Ritch, and to the players who came to spend some time with him after practice. I think it was a positive experience for him and I was happy to be able to experience it. I am sure I speak for all of Ritch’s CFL friends when I say to Carolyn, Curtis, Jean, Allan and the rest of Ritch’s family, that is there is anything we can do we’ll be there.
I took some photos and I’ve compiled them in the photo gallery below. Please feel free to leave comments for the family, or for Ritch himself and spread the word to his CFL friends.