The Brendan Ford Run for Success: embracing the importance of experiential learning

brendan ford

Experiential learning is to learn through action. Often in post-secondary academic institutions, most faculties teach through lecturing, which is the most common practice in today’s educational system. Communicating material effectively to students is a fundamental trait that professors should possess, but the ones who also actively involve their students through hands-on participation combined with employing educated material outside of the classroom are the ones who communicate their messages best.

As an Associate Professor in Brock University’s Sport Management program and Master Integral Coach with Integral Coaching Canada, Dr. Kirsty Spence believes in experiential learning and applies it to educating her students on a daily basis. Spence currently serves as the Team Liaison for the sixth annual Brendan Ford Run for Success, taking place on Mar. 28, and has been involved with the event since its inauguration.

“I was originally connected to the BFRS because it was a project that arose in my experientially learning centred leadership class in 2008 with SPMA Alumni Damian Ford, Neil Claydon, Bert Brandon III, Nicole Jackson and Mark Stewart,” said Spence. “I have chosen to remain connected over the years as supervisor and event champion because I see over and over again how the BRFS positively impacts not only two great causes but also students’ skills and consciousness levels around what it takes to be an effective team member.”

Damian Ford created the Brendan Ford Run For Success (BFRS) in 2006 after his late brother Brendan, a former student at York University, suffered a sudden cardiac arrest and passed away at the young age of 20. Damian founded the BFRS in Brendan’s honour to generate awareness and opportunities for those who are less fortunate. His father, Russ Ford, has been a major advocate for the event since Damian created the initiative.

“The run is just a great event,” said Ford in a promotional video posted by the BFRS committee on “100 per cent of the money goes to providing scholarships (three per year) to help people who need support to get through university. It’s a great way to celebrate a life that is no longer with us.”

Paul-Henri Van Thiel, a fourth-year Sport Management student who was involved with the event for two years, expressed how his involvement with the BFRS taught him that learning through experience is the way to go about learning most effectively.

“I believe that it is extremely important to learn through experience,” said Van Thiel. “The best way to know if you have learned something is by putting it into practice.”

Van Thiel also mentioned how his experiential learning opportunity with the BFRS was incredibly beneficial to both his personal and professional pursuits.

“The best part of the BFRS was the teamwork amongst the organizing committee,” said Van Thiel. “Everyone had their own specific roles and we were all ready to help each other out. With the level of commitment that the team members had, we were all able to create new friendships, develop further knowledge and lead to a very successful run.”

David Grundman, a fourth-year Sport Management student who currently serves as the Director of Marketing for the event, agrees with the benefits of experiential learning.

“The amount that Brock incorporates experiential learning into their curriculum is a large part of why I chose to come here in the first place,” said Grundman. “With Brock emphasizing experiential learning as one of their seven ‘pillars’, as well as its connection with my program, my development as a student and individual has progressed extremely well.”

Grundman then commented on how he believes that his involvement with the event is also helping him for his future, and he gets to have fun while he’s at it.

“I believe I will be a lot more prepared to enter the workforce having utilized the extensive experiential learning programs, such as the Brendan Ford Run for Success,” said Grundman. “I am able to continue my development as a student through experiential learning while serving on a committee for a great cause.”

The Brendan Ford Run for Success will occur on Mar. 28 at 10:00 a.m., taking place at 1932 Welland Canals Pkwy, in Thorold. To get involved, please email, follow them on Twitter @BRFS2015, or visit for more information.

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