By Mitch MacEachern
Fourth-year psychology student Alexander Waddling mounted his bike in May 2012 and set off on a trip across Canada with hopes to raise awareness about violence against women. But a close encounter with a rockslide almost prevented him from finishing the bike-a-thon.
After pedalling for 36 days, Waddling and his friend, Danny Surjanac, had reached British Columbia. They were biking through a mountain pass when an avalanche of rocks came tumbling onto the road in the path they were headed down.
“It was terrifying,” Waddling said. “It sounded like a freight train blew up right next to us.”
But for Waddling, this was just another day. While biking from Toronto to Vancouver, the duo encountered a close call with a tornado, several mudslides and other unfavourable weather conditions.
Now, two years later, the original pair of cyclists are gearing up to do it all over again — but this time, over 30 other riders will be joining them. Come June, the group will cover over 660 kilometres in just over a week on a trip from Toronto to Montreal. This will be the third major bike trip that Waddling has organized.
The bike-a-thon, called Ride for a Dream, aims to support the White Ribbon Campaign.
The White Ribbon Campaign, which has a chapter at Ryerson, was Waddling’s call to action.After getting involved during his second year at Ryerson, he wanted to do something more for the organization — which is where he got the idea to create Ride for a Dream.
In collaboration with the White Ribbon Campaign, Ride for a Dream is starting dialogues on the topic of violence against women all across Canada.
“We are climbing mountains,” Waddling said, referring to the high altitudes they encountered while biking through British Columbia.
But Waddling says that the mountains can also be viewed as symbolic. They are the imposing hurdles that he, his team, the White Ribbon Campaign and any person standing up against violence against women, need to overcome. These mountains, he said, are what give him gratification.
After their close call with the rockslide, Waddling and Surjanac stopped at a restaurant. The road was closed, so they decided it was time to take a break.
A female server came over, took their orders and started chatting with them.
“Where are you guys coming from?” she asked.
“We’re from Toronto,” Waddling said. “We’re doing this charity ride to end violence against women. We think it’s important to engage men [with] this.”
Before he could continue, the server quickly left the table. When she returned, she was in tears.
“Listen, I don’t have much money, but I need you to take my tips. I need to help you with this,” she said.
For Waddling and Surjanac, this moment reaffirmed why they decided to do the bike trip in the first place — to give women everywhere a sense of optimism and hope.
For more information, check out rideforadream.ca