07/03/2012 11:38 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Alberta man's arrest on cross-Canada charity run boosts awareness of his cause

MONTREAL - An Alberta man's quest to raise awareness about his cross-Canada run for charity has received a boost from an unexpected event — his own arrest by Quebec police.

Curtis Hargrove faces a charge of obstructing justice after he allegedly refused a provincial police officer's demand Monday that he get off the Trans-Canada Highway about 120 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

The arrest launched the Cold Lake native into the national media spotlight, delivering a jolt of publicity to what had been an impressive yet little-known endeavour.

Hargrove was peppered with interview requests Tuesday and the wall of the Facebook page promoting the run was plastered with words of encouragement. He was so busy that he decided to take a rare day off from running to manage it all.

Now, he's hoping the exposure will help him reach his target of raising $1 million for the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation in Edmonton.

Up until Hargrove was taken into custody, he had collected around $14,000 during a journey that began two months ago in Newfoundland.

"It's the best thing that could probably happen," Hargrove, 23, said Tuesday of the news coverage.

"You don't wish for things like (the arrest) to happen, but in a way it's really good."

However, he is left with the new challenge of trying to avoid a criminal conviction.

Hargrove was ordered to appear in court on Sept. 21 and says he's been offered free legal services from several lawyers. He's also been told that an attorney could appear on his behalf at the Quebec hearing, which will take place on a date that he expects to be pounding the pavement of his home province.

Even though he's facing the prospect of a criminal record, he doesn't regret his decision to disobey police.

"If I do end up with something over a charity like this, I guess I'll have to deal with it," he said from the town of St-Romuald, outside Quebec City.

"It is unfortunate. I'm doing something for charity — you would think I'd get a little bit of leeway."

A Quebec provincial police spokeswoman said Tuesday the officer gave Hargrove every opportunity to get off the busy highway and avoid arrest.

Sgt. Ann Mathieu said police even offered to map out a new route for him on Highway 132, a secondary highway parallel to the Trans-Canada.

"He refused the options given by the officer — the officer had no other choice but to arrest him," said Mathieu, who noted the law is there as a safety measure.

Hargrove has drawn inspiration from his hero Terry Fox, who famously ran into his own obstacles in Quebec during his 1980 Marathon of Hope.

Citing safety concerns, Quebec authorities also forced Fox to run on secondary highways instead of the major autoroutes — or face arrest.

Fox was nearly run over by a transport truck and largely ignored by the province's news outlets.

Hargrove said that, like Fox, he's not going to let the snag slow him down. He insists the incident has actually done the opposite.

"This is just going to push me to go harder," he said.

Police detained Hargrove for a few hours Monday and only released him after he signed a written promise not to run on the Trans-Canada in Quebec.

The runner's route through the rest of the province will now follow Highway 132 and other secondary roads. He plans to hop back on the Trans-Canada once he crosses the Ontario border.

He said he was stunned by the police order because he hadn't run into any police problems on the Trans-Canada when he chugged through the Maritimes.

Hargrove said he didn't even get a warning when he was stopped by Quebec police the day before his arrest.

Right before he was taken into custody, he told police he would keep running regardless.

''They said, 'Well, unfortunately we'll have to arrest you,' " said Hargrove, who has been covering about 50 kilometres a day since the run began on May 4.

"I kinda was being stubborn to kinda prove a point that I am doing something for charity."

He holds no hard feelings, however, toward the arresting officer, who he says was just doing his job.

Hargrove thought he was taking the necessary safety precautions by wearing a reflective vest and having an RV — with its four-way lights flashing — accompany him along the way.

He said his RV-driving friend, Morgan Seward, was fined $52 for parking the vehicle on the shoulder of the Trans-Canada at the time of Hargrove's arrest.

Matters got worse for Hargrove and Seward later Monday. Someone vandalized the outside of the RV as they were sitting inside it while parked in a lot near Quebec City.

Hargrove said some teenagers yanked the Canadian flag off the back of the vehicle and tried to rip down the posters stuck to the outside.

"I got outside in time to chase them away," said Hargrove, who later recovered the flag.

"It was a really frustrating day."

He said one of the teenagers told him they took down the Maple Leaf because they were in Quebec, not Canada.

Hargrove mentioned the incident in a posting on his campaign's Facebook wall, a statement that attracted several negative comments about Quebec by visitors to the page.

He urged people to stop "stop bashing" the province and its people.

"I don't hate anybody in Quebec and I don't hate Quebec," he said, adding that he's had lots of support and donations from Quebecers.

Two days before the arrest, Hargrove had even posted a video on the Facebook page of himself struggling to speak a few seconds of French. He said the RV also had signs written in French.

Still, Hargrove has overcome lofty hurdles in raising money for charity in the past.

He amassed $50,000 for the Terry Fox Foundation when he was 18 years old by running 1,450 kilometres across Alberta and British Columbia in 34 days — an average of a marathon per day.

"It's unfortunate, but you know what? My spirits are high and I'm not going to stop this run at all costs."

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