November 29th, 2021

Cyclist grandpas cross Canada for clean drinking water

By LAUREN THOMSON Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on August 18, 2021.

A team of four cyclists are riding across Canada to raise money and awareness for clean drinking water all over the world.--SUBMITTED PHOTO

lthomson@medicinehatnews.com

A group of four cyclists are tackling a “Sea 2 Sea 2 Sea” ride across Canada, a 65-day journey during which they hope to raise money and awareness for providing clean drinking water for people all over the world.

With a total of 10,000 kilometres to be covered by bike, the Cycling 4 Water team has partnered with Global Aid Network to raise money for 65 life-giving wells in Africa.

The group consists of four riders, Rob Montgomery, Timo Itkonen, Mike Woodard and Gabe Reynolds. Lyndon Dojohn drives the RV and handles arrangements and logistics for the trip.

In 2013, Montgomery approached Woodard about cycling across Canada. Woodard said until that point, he hadn’t considered cycling more than 40 kms, but told his friend he would think about it. Woodard felt strongly that if they were going to do it, it should be for a cause. In the summer of 2014 they and two others cycled from Victoria to St. John’s.

“When we were picking a cause we thought there were so many things we could do this for, but we landed on water because this is a fundamental need, and people die when they don’t have water,” said Woodard. “The thing that gripped my heart back then was the statistic that every 21 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease, and that’s preventable if they only had clean water. Being a father and a grandfather, that breaks my heart to think about.”

The group talked about reuniting for another cross-Canada ride and had planned to do it last summer, but it didn’t happen because of COVID restrictions. Woodard said the team this year is a group of grandfathers. They average more than 150 kms per day.

Although they wanted to touch all three oceans that Canada borders on instead of just two like their 2014 ride, they were unable to start in the North West Territories because of COVID closures.

“Instead of starting at the Arctic Ocean, we started at the Yukon River and then headed south. Realizing the size of the Yukon, and that there’s 42,000 people in the territory … We saw a lot of bugs, but not a lot of people,” laughed Woodard. “We made it down to Prince Rupert and dipped our tires in the Pacific and then turned east. We’re headed to Halifax.”

Woodard explained that the cost of one well installed by GAN is $8,500.

“The thing that’s cool about that is one well services about a thousand people, so for $8.50 you can give somebody water for a lifetime, and it seems so small. We just want to give people the opportunity to do something good.”

The press release for the 2021 ride states an estimated 785 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. Woodard believes clean water is a game changer.

“Water transforms villages,” said Woodard. “The newest stat that I’ve heard is that women and children walk five kilometres to get water in some villages; that is a huge investment of time. So having a well with clean water and health allows children more time for school, and women more time for productive activities.”

The team of cyclists will be arriving in Medicine Hat area on Friday night. To find out more about their cause or ways to support them, like riding alongside or hosting them, visit their website at cycling4water.ca. You can also find them under the same name on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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