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Famous last words
Bracelets keep Quinn Keast's memory alive


 Jan-Christian Sorensen - North Shore News

September 6, 2006

It might seem an absurd notion to try and encapsulate one person's life in two simple words.

But that's all it takes to sum up the late Quinn Keast.

"No regrets."

Quinn, the Handsworth Royals senior boys basketball team captain who was struck and killed by a city transit bus in Vancouver on the eve of his graduation, June 11, lived his life both on and off the court by that mantra.

At a memorial service held for Quinn in the gymnasium of the Capilano College Sportsplex a week after the death of the 18-year-old, it was Quinn's twin sister Jamie who shook the capacity crowd of thousands to its core by reading aloud a journal entry made by Quinn one year earlier.

It was authored shortly after Quinn and the Royals fell short of the gold medal at the 2005 B.C. High School Basketball Championships, taking home bronze instead. In the entry, Quinn, who was then in Grade 11, wrote how he planned to spend the next year working toward winning the provincial championship before graduating from the North Vancouver school; that he planned to live the next year like it was his last, and to conduct himself by those two simple words.

Quinn accomplished those goals, leading Handsworth to its first-ever provincial crown over the Kitsilano Blue demons in March, earning himself the championship game's Most Valuable Player honours in the bargain.

"No regrets."

That slogan featured prominently at Quinn's memorial service in Jamie's heartfelt tribute to her brother, on the black T-shirts worn by Quinn's former teammates in the 3D Basketball Academy, and emblazoned on the back of the memorial service program.

Now, Quinn's catchphrase can carry on, thanks to his family and a pair of former teammates and brothers who have designed rubber wristbands to honour his memory.

Quinn's mother Jan and his former teammate Digby Leigh Jr. hatched the idea in those rough days following Quinn's death.

"We wanted to do something to honour Quinn's memory", said Digby, who played on the Handsworth senior team with Quinn for a year before graduating in 2004.

"I remember when (Lance Armstrong's) Livestrong bracelets came out Jan brought some of the first ones I had seen back from the States, and (Quinn) was always wearing them. I can remember hearing referees telling Quinn to take them off, and that was one of the things I always associated with him : the bracelets.

While both Jan and Digby were aiming to have the initial order of 1,000 bracelets ready to hand out at the memorial service, the overseas suppliers weren't able to manufacture and ship in time.

It was important to both Jan and Digby that the bracelets be available free of charge to Quinn's family, friends and former teammates. To that end the supplier, The Image Group, covered the cost of the initial order.

When Digby began to distribute the bracelets, mainly out of his father Digby Leigh Sr.'s law office in Edgemont Village, the demand quickly overtook supply, and another order for 2,500 soon had to be placed.

Even two-time MVP Steve Nash, who sent a personal letter of condolence to Quinn's family that was read aloud at the memorial service, was sporting one of the bracelets at his annual charity basketball game in Vancouver in July.

"While the bracelets are free, many people insist on giving a donation", said Digby. Any money that is collected goes to covering the cost of any additional bracelet orders, and any profit will be funneled back into a scholarship fund that has been set up by the Quinn Keast Foundation. The organization, which was incorporated as a society on Aug. 31, is directed by Quinn's parents, Jan and Tom, Quinn's coach, Digby Leigh Sr., and fellow Handsworth coaches Leslie Sacre and Blair Shier.

"The scholarship fund is doing very well," said Digby Leigh Jr., whose younger brother Scott was a friend, teammate and co-captain of Quinn's. "The idea is to grow it to a point where it can be self-sufficient. I know the original idea was to create a scholarship for a kid who exemplified the way that Quinn played the game, which was unique; "he had a hustle, he was a great shooter, he would crash the boards. For a guy of his height, he really played up."

The most important thing, said Digby, is keeping Quinn's memory alive so that the scholarship always carries weight.

"There are so many of these awards with some guy's name attached and you don't have a clue who it is, so I think (Jan and Tom's) goal is to make it unique, so that people don't forget what Quinn represented. So he's not just a name.

"That was the whole point with these bands, to get that message of "No regrets" across. You're not promised tomorrow, you're promised today. Live it to the fullest.

Scott Leigh, who is now in Edmonton preparing to attend and play for the University of Alberta, said that he hopes the bracelets help people find some closure, and facilitate the healing process.

That certainly has been the case for him.

"It's something that you can carry around on you that will always mean something. After someone passes away the importance of (their life) can fade but I think having the bands around will mean a lot once we get them out there," said Scott. "I don't think there was anything else we would have thought to put on them than '˜No regrets.'

"Whatever situation you have in your life, when you look down at your wrist and it says no regrets - for me, that helps out a lot."

To obtain a bracelet, drop by Digby Leigh and Co. at 201-3053 edgemont Bvld. In Edgemont Village, just above blueshore bank. 

To make a contribution to the Quinn Keast Scholarship Fund, go to any TD Canada Trust branch and quote account No. 9465-5205634.