Motorcyclists are often popular viewed as being intimidating and scary. In my experience, most of them are teddy bears; kind and generous to a fault. Which is probably why there are so many charitable fundraising efforts that involve motorcycle rides.
One of those—and one very near and dear to me—is the Ride for the Breath of Life. Every year in Edmonton for the last twelve years, the Ride has helped raise money and awareness for cystic fibrosis. Many of the participants in the ride have an immediate family connection to CF. Some participants even have CF themselves.
My connection to CF is a little bit more indirect, but no less meaningful to me. A very dear friend of mine has a daughter with the disease. Erica was diagnosed at birth, and has been dealing with the consequences every since. It’s all she has ever known, but that doesn’t make it any easier to manage and deal with—for her, or for her family.
This year is my sixth time participating in the ride. Participation has gotten a little bit more complicated since I began, but that’s mostly because the ride that I participate in is in Edmonton, and I—and my motorcycles—are now located in Ontario.
Not one to get logistics get in the way, however, I was proud to once again be able to contribute to the ride. Flights were booked, motorcycles borrowed, and places to crash (in terms of sleep, not in terms of the bike) were arranged. I flew in to Edmonton the day before the ride, rented a car, drove down to Calgary to pick up the bike, and rode back up to Edmonton. Total travel time: 14 hours.
The day of the ride dawned a little earlier than I would have liked. That’s partly a product of the days being much longer in Edmonton at this time of year. It’s also a product of the night before going much later than was probably reasonable, wise or judicious. There is apparently no such thing as “one scotch.”
Nonetheless, we were up by 7:00am and out the door by 7:15am to get set up and ready for the ride. Awnings were erected, tables unfolded and PA systems set up to prepare for the imminent arrival of a small army of motorcyclists, as well as a surprising number of family and friends that come out to see us off.
Last year was soggy and wet. This year, we were blessed with warm temperatures, bright sun and a clear blue sky. You couldn’t ask for better weather. At 10:30am, more than 35 motorcycles revved their engines and lined up in parade formation (well, in theory, anyway) to head out for the ride.
The ride itself is just under 200 kms, through some of the finest countryside around Edmonton. With rest stops, the ride fills up a substantial portion of the day. Like last year, our trip looped from the eastern edge of Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton, down through Camrose and Wetaskawin, before finishing in Pigeon Lake. The trip passes through countryside, fields, communities, forests and cottage country. It’s an entirely impressive cross-section of the Alberta countryside.
As with all great events, there is also food involved. The ride concludes with a barbecue for all of the participants. It’s a chance to connect, to catch up and to celebrate a successful day. It’s also an opportunity to remind ourselves of how important the ride and events like it are to the community of CF patients that it supports.
This year we were joined by the family of Lorna Krause. They shared their experience of Lorna’s lifelong battle with CF. Like many families, they spoke of numerous health challenges. CF doesn’t just affect the lungs, but causes complications for just about all of the major organs of the body, including the pancreas, liver and heart. It entirely normal to hear families and patients talking about numerous pills, extensive physiotherapy and frequent hospital stays, whether for periodic “tune-ups” or to respond to more immediate challenges.
Lorna defied the odds for more than 43 years. She didn’t just survive, but lived a full and rewarding life. She married, and gave birth to a daughter. She was the recipient of a living donor double lung transplant, with lobes donated by her mother and her sister. She and her husband, Steve, were frequent participants in the Ride for the Breath of Life. Lorna’s determination to participate led her to get her own motorcycle license, and she rode with us in 2015, the tenth anniversary of the ride.
Sadly, Lorna passed away on 9 November 2016. Her mother, father and husband had the courage and strength to share her story with us. Her determination and spirit are an inspiration, and an amazing story of defying the odds to live life to the fullest.
The funds that are raised by the ride help fund critical research into finding a cure for cystic fibrosis. Rewardingly, there are research successes. There are also challenges, as CF has so many strains and variants. There are treatments emerging that have had exceptional impacts for some, even as others continue to struggle with the disease. It is my sincere the hope that the contributions of the ride continue to make a difference, providing options and extending and improving the lives of those with CF and ultimately finding a cure.
This year’s ride raised more than $32,000 for cystic fibrosis. My team helped to contribute more than $18,000 of that total. Thanks to the amazing generosity of all of you, my supporters, our contribution to the ride was $2,560.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support, your warm wishes and especially your generosity. The ride is an incredibly rewarding event to participate in. It also makes a significant difference in the lives of those with cystic fibrosis. The ride is more than just a fundraising event; it is a means of raising awareness of a horrific disease that robs years and decades from the lives of people. It is also an incredible symbol of hope and promise for the families touched by cystic fibrosis, and the loved ones that they care for.