Friends and family are mourning the loss of Ryeley Palfi, a 19-year Dawson Creek bodybuilder who died in a tragic motorcycle accident on June 8.
With more than 145,000 fans and counting across several social media platforms, the young man was regarded as a rising star in the fitness world.
"What a devastating accident," wrote Canadian bodybuilding icon Greg Doucette. "Condolences to his friends and family.”
Nevada bodybuilder Craig Golias added an “RIP brother” online as well.
Gridiron Fitness Gym owner Tamara Schmidt says fundraising is underway in Dawson Creek for either a scholarship or donation.
“We are learning towards a scholarship for future athlete,” she says, adding orders for a Ryeley Palfi memorial hoodie are coming in from all over the world, including Finland, Belgium and the United States.
His dad, Rick Palfi, says he’s still processing the loss but knows his son was making huge strides in many different avenues of life as a future word-class athlete, mental health advocate, and savvy entrepreneur.
“It was very busy life. He was always busy with his following, that was one of his passions in life, his social media. When he wasn’t doing that, he was in the gym,” said Rick.
Ryeley would often come home and jump on his phone, says Rick, who later realized his son was responding to messages from fans and friends from around the world – coming to his son for help with mental health struggles and thoughts of suicide.
“He was on his social media so much because he was helping people all over the world, and I’ve had a massive amount of support, messages sent to me from people all over the world,” said Rick. “I’ve had numerous messages from people that were suicidal and they said he saved their life. He was trying to help people and save people.”
The messages continue to come in, all them positive, he says, expressing condolences to the family and gratitude for the help they received.
Also a bodybuilder, Rick began helping his son with training when Ryeley was just 12. He says he was always incredibly proud of Ryeley for sharing that passion with him.
“It just runs in our family. I give all the credit to my dad for putting me into this sport, this lifestyle. He’s my training partner, he’s my duo, and without him I couldn’t be where I am today,” Ryeley told the Dawson Creek Mirror in 2018.
It didn’t take long for Ryeley to surpass him, and was the youngest to compete in the Northern Classic at 15 years old, winning first place.
“He fell into my footsteps about seven years ago and just blew right past me, he kind of took it to a whole new level,” said Rick.
Ryeley had many other talents, says Rick, who loved his son’s sense of humour and ability to bring everyone in the family together. The second oldest of a family of five, Ryeley is missed by his older brother Brennan, his younger sister Kameryn, his younger brother Kash, and baby sister Gracie.
Rick says the drive to be an athlete and an entrepreneur dominated everything Ryeley did, with his son never really feeling comfortable with a traditional job or life path.
“It was like a light switch went off for him. He’s been doing this from when he was pretty young, minor. He immediately realized that this is something that he wanted to do and this was what he wanted to do for his career,” said Rick. “Money was not an issue for him, he didn’t care if he had money or was broke, he just wanted to be able to do what he loved doing.”
Ryeley was also a hockey player for many years in addition to riding in motocross racing with his older brother and father. After a bad crash in 2010 that hospitalized Rick and put him into a coma, the Palfi men decided it would be better to pursue other sports.
Ryeley left home 18 to pursue his dream and met his idol, Chris Bumstead, the classic men’s physique world champion. He had just moved back to Dawson Creek to be closer to family, says Rick.
“That was his idol,” said Rick of Bumstead. “I reached out to him and he put a really nice comment on and tagged Ryeley, and gave condolences to the family. That was really nice to see, Ryeley would have been really proud of that.”
“He was the guy that Ryeley was going to beat, that was his goal. He wanted to step on stage together,” Rick said.
A celebration of life is planned for today, June 16 from noon to 2 pm at the Dawson Creek Kin Arena, with a funeral service immediately following.