Retired Welch LLP partner Garth Steele inspires new ‘Legendary’ song to raise funds for ALS

Ottawa business professional Kyle Turk dedicates tune to dear friend and mentor while exceeding fundraising goal of $2,500

Kyle Turk and Garth Steele, seen on the far right, during good times together at an event with their wives, Cathy Steele, far left, and Courtney Turk.

We all know music has the power to lift spirits, move souls and give strength.

Volunteer fundraiser Kyle Turk has also discovered its ability to raise money to fight diseases afflicting some of the people he cares most about while giving him a lasting way to honour them.

The Ottawa business professional has produced a song, Legendary, in support of the ALS Society of Canada. It’s dedicated to one of his favourite people, former Welch LLP partner Garth Steele, who’s living with the devastating disease.

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Steele, 62, received his diagnosis on May 27, 2021, as he was nearing retirement from his 40-plus years at Welch LLP, an Ottawa-based chartered public accounting firm. 

Turk became close with Steele after joining Welch as director of marketing and communications in 2015. Their offices were next to each other. Steele, along with then-managing partner Micheal Burch, were his mentors during his time at the firm.

“Garth is the man,” said Turk, who’s now vice-president of marketing at Altis Recruitment. “I love everything about the guy. He’s just been so good to me; he’s been so good to everyone around him.”

Garth Steele, retired partner at Welch LLP, has been living with ALS following his diagnosis in May 2021.

Turk was crushed when he found out about Steele’s diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The progressive nervous system disease affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, people with ALS lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow and eventually breathe.

“Honestly, I rarely shed tears but it was one of the times where I got very emotional,” said Turk. “I think it hit home, that it can happen to anybody. It can happen to some of the best people in the world and Garth is genuinely one of the best people I know. For something like this to happen to Garth, right when he was retiring and going to spend some time with his family, it really hit me emotionally.”

ALS was in the news earlier this week after it was revealed Ottawa Senators assistant coach Bob Jones had recently been diagnosed with the disease.

With Turk’s impressive history of volunteer fundraising, he knew he wanted to do something, at some point, for his friend. He announced through a LinkedIn post eight days ago that he had a new song, promising to publicly release it once he had raised $2,500 for the ALS Society of Canada. 

“Garth is a legend in my mind, so I wanted to title the song Legendary,” added Turk.

With the fundraising total currently at $4,250, or 170 per cent of his goal, the tune will be dropped sometime Monday on digital music streaming services. Turk worked with famous rapper Rick Ross and Canadian R&B recording artist JRDN. This will be Turk’s second tribute song; he released All My Dawgz Go to Heaven a year ago to raise funds for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. His artistic moniker is YoungTurky, by the way.

The song cover art for Legendary, a new song being released this Monday in honour of Garth Steele and in support of the ALS Society of Canada.

Turk doesn’t perform on Legendary but you do hear him briefly refer to a couple of things that remind him of Steele. He mentions “Steele Nation Forever,” as in the T-shirts that circulated around the Welch office years ago. “I still have mine,” said Turk. “It’s got holes and stuff in it now but it’s one of those really good memories that I’ll keep around forever.”

You will also hear him say “Three-time calc-off champ.” It refers to the office competition held at Welch to see who could correctly add and subtract a page full of numbers the fastest, using a calculator. Steele was the three-time champion. “I have such super fun memories of this.”

Turk is hoping Legendary lifts people up. “It’s the kind of song you can bob your head to and enjoy and not think so much about the diagnosis and how it’s sad and that sort of thing. It’s more of an upbeat song to have fun with.”

Steele told he’s touched by Turk’s gesture. “He’s such a great guy. Fundraising for ALS is good because, at this point, there is no cure,” Steele said in a video interview, regularly using a hand-held ventilator because his lung capacity has dropped to below 30 per cent.

Steele’s wife and caregiver, Cathy, helped him onto the Zoom call, as keyboard typing has become difficult. “My hands are very weak,” said Steele, who, despite using a walker to get around, finds moving from room to room to be exhausting. He has an electric wheelchair being delivered soon.

“I’m hanging in there,” said Steele. “I had planned to retire at the end of 2021. Then, COVID comes along and ALS comes along. It was not what I expected.”

Since his diagnosis, he’s been keeping a blog, Faith Over Fear.  It takes readers along with him on his ALS journey. He maintains his strong faith in God, whom he asks in his very first entry “to remove any fear that exists in my soul and to remind me each day to be thankful for the good things that I’ve been blessed with in that moment.”

There’s also a Pray for Garth website created by friends and devoted to praying for Steele’s healing.

During the course of his illness, Steele has been there for the weddings of his daughter, Hannah, and son, Deagan. Hannah is a chartered accountant at Welch, as is her husband, Connor Schmitt (a fun family portrait from their wedding, done in cartoon Simpsons style, rests on the cabinet behind him during the interview, along with a framed newspaper article about Welch). Steele also recently welcomed his second grandchild.  

“Garth is a man of amazing strength,” said Micheal Burch, retired partner and former managing partner at Welch. “To say that we are inspired is an understatement.”

Steele had an accomplished career, prior to his retirement. He led the firm’s commodity tax practice and was previously awarded his fellowship by the Council of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario. Becoming a Fellow is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a CPA. It recognizes their achievements and contributions in their careers and in the community.

Steele served on such boards as the The Ottawa Mission, First Place Maternal Health Options and Ottawa Chamber Music Society.

Steele was “a great partner, always ready to help with his amazing understanding of Canadian commodity tax,” said Burch, who continues to meet for lunches with Steele and his former Welch partner Don Scott. “Garth’s faith is a huge part of his makeup. I know that he is relying on this faith to help him understand and deal with this unforgiving disease.”

As for Turk’s new song, it just goes to show what a wonderful and loyal friend he is, said Burch. “This is typical of Kyle.”

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