It started as a seed.
I was interviewing a family friend about his participation in the annual Ride for Refuge — braving the cold October winds to cycle up to 50 kilometres, raising funds for the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.
When I asked him the quintessential journalistic question — why? — he offered an answer that hung around in my mind far longer than I expected.
“You look at the news today,” he told me, “and you see so many people struggling […] and sometimes it feels like there’s really nothing you can do – but this is really, in one small way, something that I can do to help.”
As answers come, it was predictable enough — the exact radio soundbite I was hoping for — but it hit me nonetheless. In that moment, the seed was planted.
By nightfall, it had germinated into an idea, and then a conviction: I’m going to bike across Canada.
Never mind that the longest I’d biked before was just over 20 kilometres (rest assured, a threshold I’ve since passed).
I began poring over all the details: optimal routes, suitable bikes, required gear, and a charitable cause. As the weeks passed in the dead of winter, things started falling into place. I bought a bike. I learned the nuances of clipless pedals (a misnomer if I’ve ever seen one). I found a day-by-day trip planner from Vancouver to St. John’s.
Most importantly, I found a cause — something I knew would keep me pedalling when the going got tough.
Like many, I’ve felt the impact of mental illness close to home. I’ve seen so many people dear to me suffer in silence — from family members, to mentors, to my closest friends. I’ve felt the loss of suicide in my family. I’ve also seen tremendous strength in friends and family opening up and sharing their journeys — strength which inspires my own journey over the next few months.
From June until the end of August, I’m cycling over 7,500 kilometres under the banner Keep Pushing – Martin’s Ride for Mental Health. I’ll be raising funds for Defeat Depression, a national campaign led by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. Within the campaign, a majority of the funds will be allocated to the Waterloo Wellington Dufferin branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Both organizations do important work in providing mental health, education, and support services.
By biking across Canada, I hope to encourage others to keep pushing and seek help where they need it. No one is too small or insignificant, no matter how they feel. We’ve made tremendous strides in the past several years, but the stigma surrounding mental illness still lingers. Let’s do something to change that.
If you wish to donate, you may do so here: http://mdsc.akaraisin.com/MartinsRide