Bob McLeod, has been granted an honorary lifetime membership in Kitimat search and rescue for his many years of service. Earlier this year, he was also provided with a ‘limited edition’ Challenge Coin as a token of thanks for his contribution to Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) in British Columbia, as well as serving as regional director for the northwest region on the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) board.
Like the military, a BCSARA Challenge Coin is presented to those who performed a special service to their unit. The face of the Challenge Coin depicts the official crest of the association and the backside of the coin illustrates BCSARA’s national and provincial ties with both flags on it. The back of the coin also has three symbols: a needle, which represents searching and ensuring one never loses their direction, A carabiner, which represents the function of holding everything together, and a circle of rope with a figure eight, which represents the loop that ties all these components together.
McLeod began his endeavours long before Search and Rescue became what it is today. At a young age, McLeod moved to Kitimat from Regina looking for work. Starting as a search and rescue volunteer, Bob became an RCMP auxiliary in the mid-’60s, which transitioned into his position as deputy coordinator of the Kitimat emergency program.
“Back then, the search and rescue team wasn’t what it is today,” he said. “At the time, if there was a situation at hand the local RCMP would reach out to the community and ask for help.”
However, after McLeod coordinated a major search in the late 1960s, the calls kept coming in and more searches were demanded of him. Working out the back of his pickup truck, McLeod would round up locals in town to help with searches until the RCMP auxiliaries came into play. “One of my first big searches actually started because a coworker of mine was missing. We didn’t have any funding so we rounded up everyone in town and actually found the guy”, he said. “After that, the calls just kept coming in and we kept going out”.
As funding was always a major issue during the early years of Kitimat’s search and rescue, McLeod would help organize major fundraising events and work together with organizations to help their search and rescue programs back in Kitimat. “We would host fundraisers just to perform our jobs and get the basic equipment we needed”, he said. “One time we recovered the body of a young fella and his parents sent us money in Memorium of him and our work. It’s a sad way of getting money but this would happen on a number of occasions”.
When asking McLeod about what motivated him to constantly set up these fundraisers, he paused, then explained “when you’re out there looking for a lost child, there’s a lot of satisfaction to resolve that. I have five kids of my own and it’s hard to not think about them when you’re out there looking for someone else’s kid”. Even though the late nights and early mornings were difficult for McLeod, the need for his help was undeniable.
McLeod didn’t see much provincial funding or grants until the 2002 Mt. Elizabeth search, where two summer students from Alcan got lost. Still working out of the back of his pickup truck, McLeod began one of the biggest searches ever commenced in British Columbia. Under his supervision, the community of Kitimat came together and helped run the search which he said was funded by family and friends of the two boys.
After McLeod’s valiant efforts during the 2002 Mt. Elizabeth search, he saw significant interest in the work he and his crew had been doing and training started taking place for others wanting to join. Training consisted of basic search and rescue, wilderness rope rescue, swift water rescue, and organized avalanche response.
The current director for the northwest region of British Columbia, Mike Stekenlenburg, still in awe about how “(McLeod) organized one of the biggest searches in British Columbia out of the back of his own pickup truck”, he said. This is why the BCSARA named their new response vehicle ‘Bob’, in recognition of the years he was involved in the GSAR.
For more information regarding BCSARA’s missions, mandates or volunteer programs visit www.bcsara.com/donate/.