Ryerson student rides for a dream

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Biking from Toronto to Vancouver to raise awareness for the White Ribbon Campaign. Carly Thomas reports

Three dudes on bikes, 35 days, 4,500 km of open Canadian road and a mission to help stop violence against women. Ride For a Dream bike-athon is raising money and awareness for the White Ribbon Campaign.

Second-year Ryerson psychology student Alexander Waddling and his two friends — Steve Barry and Danny Surjanac will bike from Toronto to Vancouver. The guys plan to leave May 1.

They plan to stop in major cities along the way to spread the message of the White Ribbon Campaign, the largest effort to engage men in helping stop violence against women worldwide. Waddling has always been an avid cyclist.

He has biked to Ottawa twice. Once from Toronto and another time from Victoria Harbour Ont., where he and Barry are from, but has never attempted crossing the country. The idea of biking west first took shape last December when Surjanac, a co-worker at the time, mentioned that he would love to attempt a long ride.

Waddling decided he wanted to use the trip to marry his passion for cycling with the volunteer work he had been doing at the White Ribbon Campaign at Ryerson.

“I wanted to do something for the White Ribbon Campaign. Something I could put my heart and soul into and make matter,” he said.

Jeff Perera, project manager at the White Ribbon Campaign, opened the Ryerson chapter three years ago and runs workshops and the annual “What Makes a Man” conference, where Waddling first got involved with the group back in 2011.

Perera said that overall, Ryerson is better than most spaces in terms of sexual equality. But he mentioned there are still issues of sexual harassment on campus, and indicated there is room for improvement.

He said a cultural shift must happen where “we need to recognize that being a man doesn’t mean being assertive, purely aggressive, having all the answers and being a stud… it’s really about just being human and saying you can be vulnerable, you can be who you are. It’s not a negative.”

Waddling said he is riding for his five-year-old sister Cheyenn, who he described as the “sweetest thing on earth.”

He said it sickens him to think of her having to deal with any form of abuse. According to statistics on the White Ribbon website, “half of Canadian women (51 per cent) have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.”

“You take any sized room and in it you put my mother, my sister, my two cousins, my grandmother and one of my best friends; six very important women in my life, and to think that half of them are going to have to deal with that. That eats me up inside,” said Waddling.

After a fundraising concert at Lee’s Palace last March, the three men raised $2,500 towards their trip. Waddling said it was “not nearly enough,” to fund the trip.

He said he hasn’t received too much financial support from Ryerson students yet but hopes that “as we get closer to the kick off date, more and more people from Ryerson will be willing to contribute.”

The men will be traveling an average of 150 km per day with an allotted seven rest days. They will be spending most nights in a tent, but a few people have offered to house them during their trip.

Waddling said if it weren’t for the immediate support and participation of Barry and Surjanac, the trip would have never taken shape.

“I wouldn’t ride with anybody else. You know, I wouldn’t ride with these guys if I didn’t love them to pieces, and trust them and think that I could get along with them completely for 24 hours a day for 35 days. We all have a very good bond that way,” he said.

“Is this going to change the world? No, no that would be ridiculous. But it’s a step in the right direction and will have residual effects for me and hopefully my family, my friends and others,” he said.

“I want to at the very least plant the seed. To make people aware that there is someone out there who thinks [the White Ribbon Campaign] is important enough to do something about.”

For more information visit the Ride for a Dream blog.

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