Why He’s Top 40: This former football player is ahead of the game in Edmonton’s homebuilding industry
After a late-night attack in 2007 left him unable to speak, Graeme Bell’s CFL career was on the line.
Waiting for a taxi outside a Saskatoon restaurant just after 2 a.m., Bell tried to break up a nearby altercation. His good intentions were met with clenched fists, and he was quickly forced to the ground – first by a punch, and then a sharp blow to the head with a baseball bat. He was rushed to the hospital with a fractured skull and underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. The surgery was a success but, in the following days, Bell found out what he’d truly lost that night; his ability to speak.
Doctors were uncertain Bell would be able to speak again, let alone get back on the field, but he was determined to make a comeback.
“It was my football experience that helped me to recover,” Bell says. “It’s the get-up, rub-some-dirt-on- it, keep-going mentality.”
Bell not only recovered, but got back into the game in a big way. He returned to the field and went on to win a Grey Cup before hanging up his cleats in 2013.
Now, he’s changing the game in Edmonton’s homebuilding industry through programs like Alair Homes’ RespectFILL infill initiative.
“We wanted to raise ourselves out of some of the stigma that surrounds infill right now, while also helping to raise the industry. So we created RespectFILL based on three simple principles: respect your neighbours, look after your sites and have safe building practices,” he says. “It parallels with what our company is all about; building relationships in our community.”
For Bell, it doesn’t take much to have a big impact on the community – the company has also sponsored a number of home renovations to help families who would otherwise have had to move due to accessibility issues. “If you do little things to help someone now, you don’t know where the effects of that will stop. It could change their life entirely,” he says. “The smallest details can have the biggest impact over time.”
Through his ongoing involvement with organizations like the Edmonton Eskimo Alumni Idea Board, the Brain Care Centre Board and his work changing the perception of construction companies, it’s clear that all of Bell’s efforts certainly do add up.