Travelling across Canada is never easy. Now imagine you're biking, and don't have the use of your legs.
That's Jimmy Pelletier's journey, along with 6 cyclists in support, they're crossing the country to raise money for paraplegic services along the way.
They are also stopping in various communities, donating money to and bringing awareness to multiple organizations, including Moose Jaw.
They were at Ecole Ducharme Friday afternoon, to donate $1000 to 15 Wing.
Pelletier is very involved within his community, and he volunteers with many organizations in Quebec city, who provide services and activities for people with mental handicaps like coping with autism. As well, being paraplegic himself gives him a perspective that makes him aware of specific challenges, and he wanted to do something to help people.
Clement Lemieux, one of the team members and riders alongside Pelletier, said Jimmy wanted to help people in Quebec city, but also to give back along the journey. "We're going to give $20-25,000 dollars in the next few weeks to different organizations in the country. Jimmy is an exceptional human being, with a lot of concern for the well being of others, and that's why he decided to take this journey."
Each one of the 6 riders trained through winter in Quebec to be prepared for the journey. "We had to take spinning lessons," said Lemieux. "Some of us have our own indoor bicycles. We've been training 6 to 12 hours a week since January. Winter was very long in Quebec, so we didn't really have the chance to go out and ride our bicycles before arriving in Vancouver on May 4th. We've prepared as best we can. We do one day at a time. We enjoy being together. We feel it is incredible to have the opportunity to cross the country on a bicycle. The views, the scenery are wonderful. So far, we've enjoyed what we're doing."
They left Vancouver on the May 7th, and are planning to arrive in Halifax on July 10th. 63 days of bike riding in total. Pelletier doesn't have the use of his legs, and so he's doing it with only his arms and hand cycle. "That makes things special for everybody," said Lemieux. "We're receiving lots of support from people. And we're doing it to raise money for people who are coping with physical or mental handicaps. Our goal is to raise half a million dollars. We're selling a kilometre for $25. It's kind of a dream for each one of us to cross the country on a bicycle. Jimmy is on his hand bike, and we are 6 cyclists, who are supporting him and riding with him. So far we've had a tremendous experience. We went through the Rockies, it took 8 days to go through the Rocky Mountains. There was a lot of elevation, which was very very hard for Jimmy. Because he doesn't have abs, and can't use his legs also. So it's only arm power."
Lemieux said they assumed that once they were through the Rockies, the trip would become easier, but the prairies have presented their own challenges for the team.
"When you go on a journey of 130 kilometres and 2400 metre elevation, starting at 6 in the morning and finishing at 8 at night, it's extremely demanding. But at the same time, the scenery, the view, it's like touching the clouds, touching the sky. It's extremely difficult, but at the same time, we feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to ride across Canada. We thought the prairies will be great, we had 8 days in a row with the wind at our back. But then the wind changed and it became very difficult for another reason. But seeing the prairies. You look to the left and see as far as the eye can see, look to the right it's the same thing. You never experience things like that in Quebec, so it is just amazing. The views, the scenery, and the welcoming from the people. It is outstanding."
Pelletier's dream was to play in the NHL but lost the use of his legs at 19 playing junior hockey. He's now 42.
One stop they'll be making is to meet with Ryan Straschnitzki, one of the survivors of the Humboldt tragedy.
Lemieux said, "He wants to meet with Ryan Straschnitzki, one of the survivors of the Humboldt tragedy. He is now paraplegic, and Jimmy wants to meet with him because he knows what he's going through. They had the same dream when they were 19, and unfortunately, Ryan lost the use of his leg."
Their goal of $500,000 will be boosted once they reach Quebec, said Lemieux. "When we arrive in Montreal on June 27th, 80 more cyclists will join us. Each one of them is raising money right now, so it's going to give us a big push on our goal. All together we will ride 660 kilometres in Quebec, arriving in Quebec city on Canada day to celebrate."
Full details and a step by step map of their journey can be found here.