Opinion: Let’s do what we can

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The Ride for Sick Kids. Photo Credit Paul D'Auvergne.

Much has been written about the current pandemic we’re experiencing. We’re living in strange and unprecedented times of uncertainty and upheaval. Virtually everyone across the country is affected in one way or another, be it financially or emotionally.

Local businesses are struggling too. Many of the restaurants we’d normally stop at for a big meal during a ride are either only doing takeout menus or can’t even justify the expense of opening. Charities have been hit hard this season too, as most of the athletic events and charity rides planned for this summer have been heavily modified or cancelled altogether, like the annual Ride for Sick Kids. These events drive a large portion of revenue for these organizations.
The Toronto Star recently reported that more than two-thirds of charities have reported a 31 per cent drop in revenues in 2020.

The Ride for Sick Kids. Photo Credit Paul D’Auvergne.

Rules about restrictions on the size of gatherings permitted are a moving target and vary depending on region and outbreak numbers, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless to support worthy charitable organizations and the small business we want to stay open when all of this is behind us.

Last weekend I participated in a casual socially distanced charity ride that a friend organized. The concept was simple: Donate $20 to the charity of choice and show up for a day of riding nice roads. Asking for additional funds from friends or family was optional but welcomed. The organizer decided on Jack.org as the beneficiary. The company she works for, Cadillac Fairview, even offered to match whatever was raised through their Building Communities program.

Eric Windeler and Sandra Hanington founded “The Jack Project” in 2010. The project was named after their son, Jack Windeler, who committed suicide when he was 18 years old. In his parting letter, Jack asked his parents to help others. To honor his wishes, they focused on helping young people struggling with mental health issues. Rebranding to Jack.org in 2012, the organization now has over 150 active chapters in universities, colleges, and high schools across Canada. The program promotes and facilitates Jack Talks and hosts an annual national mental health summit, which is the largest youth-led mental health conference.

“Sweetening” the deal even more, was a Poker Run-style ride where the route would take us to a number of small bakeries where we were free to enjoy fresh coffee and baked goods. We received a playing card for each purchase made where the best hands got priority choice at the prize table.

Prizes consisted of items donated by the group. Who among us doesn’t have a selection of new gear or accessories we’ve purchased and never used, or gift cards we never got around to redeeming? Personally, I had a stack of high-quality industry swag from press rides over the last few years that was collecting dust in my garage. I was more than happy to clear out the space and share the wealth for a good cause.

Donning masks when entering the bakeries and doing our best to stay six feet apart when outdoors, it certainly wasn’t business as usual, but there are definitely worse ways to spend a day than riding with friends. In total, we had about 25 riders on everything from café racers to cruisers and chopped customs. Once the pseudo-official portion of the ride was completed, we naturally broke off into smaller groups to hit the roads on the route that we’d found most enjoyable.

Not only was it great to get back out riding with a group, but we also raised $4,500 for Jack.org. Not a massive amount, but every little bit helps. And I’m sure that each bakery we visited appreciated the business. If we all make a small effort within our own means, it could make a big difference to those who are struggling.

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