Marquis Petit says that his father Jean-Pierre Petit, better known as J.P., was “beyond generous” in his life.
J.P. Petit was struck by a transport truck while cycling on the highway north of Brookings, N.D., on June 9, and later died from his injuries in hospital on June 13, according to police. South Dakota police are currently investigating the crash.
He was in the process of making a 1,350-km cycling trip from Winnipeg, Man., to Hot Springs, S.D., to raise $20,000 for his granddaughter Éveline, who was born with end-stage renal disease and received a kidney transplant in March.
“Dad just wanted to do whatever he could to try to help us out,” Marquis Petit told As It Happens guest host Catherine Cullen.
J.P. wrote that he chose to travel to Hot Springs, because it was where he completed his first ultramarathon. At the time, he saw a fountain in the centre of town called Kidney Springs, with a plaque that describes the mineral benefits in the water that promote kidney health.
Petit’s fundraising efforts were going to support not only his granddaughter but also the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba which would support the nephrology department at the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital.
Here is part of Marquis Petit’s conversation with As It Happens.
Marquis, your dad obviously had a pretty big heart. What did you think when he told you he wanted to do this bike ride?
Honestly … I thought he was crazy. It was one of his biggest endeavours yet. He’s [run] countless marathons, several ultramarathons. Every time he signed up for another ultramarathon, I’m just like, you’re crazy. And I wasn’t going to change my statement for this endeavour.
So a real athlete, but a generous person as well.
Yes. He had been planning this event for almost a year before coming to my mom and myself to tell us what he was planning to do. He was thinking of running it at first, but he said that was going to be too difficult.
So he decided to do a cycle and he started mapping it out and he, you know, figured out that that’s something he could do. So he told us around Christmas time, if I recall correctly, that this is a project that he wanted to get started.
What did he say to you about why he wanted to do this?
He always told me he never understood or would never be able to do what Éveline has done. She’s defied the odds. She’s gone through several operations. She’s been in and out of the hospital.
He said she was his inspiration to do this.
Tell me how he was feeling when he embarked on this ride.
He was excited. We had good weather. We had a good following. We’d been doing a Facebook page and a website that my wife and I operate. So we’re, you know, doing the media side of things for this event. My dad was going to be the muscles …. he was going to be the one doing the challenge. He felt good.
How old is Éveline ?
Éveline is three.
What did she understand about what her grandfather was doing? Did she sort of get that he was doing something for her?
Not really. It’s been a long few months. Éveline just received a new kidney in March. On March 10, she received a new kidney from myself, actually, so she didn’t have to do dialysis. So we we’ve been busy with that and up and down with infections. So, you know, she always likes being in front of the camera. So … when we were taking pictures for the events and stuff with Dad, you know, she was excited. But, you know, she’s also three.
You gave her your kidney.
I sure did.
What an incredible, incredible time you and your family have been going through.
It’s been a challenge. She was born with renal disease. She probably spent, I would say, close to a third of her life so far to date in the hospital, [with] infections, procedures, different things.
When she was born, they didn’t think she was going to make 24 hours, yet alone receive a kidney one day. COVID kind of put some halt to the process, but at the same time gave her the time to get strong and big enough to go through this procedure. So on March 10, everything was a go and she was able to receive my kidney.
This is hard for me to ask you, and I only want you to tell me what you are comfortable telling me. But what do we know about the accident?
He was on the shoulder, like he always did. The only time [he wouldn’t take the shoulder was] if there was highway debris, he would try to take the grass side. And it sounds like a moving truck, semi, like a big commercial transport didn’t see him and went into the shoulder and hit Dad.
People have heard about what happened and they have been continuing to donate. What can you tell me about that?
It’s been unbelievable. Dad always had his personal goal of reaching $50,000. And again, I called him crazy. I said, “How about we try to make something achievable?” and even then, I thought $20,000 was going to be difficult to achieve. He actually achieved $20,000 the morning of the accident. And then the outpour since, we have surpassed $31,000.
We actually even have received some PayPal transfers from Italy. People in Italy have heard Dad’s story and were touched to donate to the cause.
I can only imagine what he would think of that.
He’d be blown away. But he’s leaving behind a legacy, right? Knowing Dad he — if he knew the outcome … he still would have went on this adventure. He’s one of the most selfless persons, family members, that I know. So, you know, we’ve said it over and over again that he would have done this knowing the outcome, without [missing] a beat.
You talk about his generosity. You gave your kidney. You made sure some of this money went to the hospital. It sounds like that generosity is still very present in your own family.
It is, though tragic and bittersweet.
Dad was able to donate both his kidneys and his liver to help three people with this tragic event. One kidney went to someone in California, one in the Midwest and his liver in the Midwest as well. So even after his passing, he’s beyond generous.
You sound like a very generous person yourself. I’m so deeply sorry for your loss.
Written by Andrea Bellemare. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.