Riding For People With AIDS

In a post I wrote last spring, I mentioned that son #1 was going to be riding in a 600 km bike rally from Toronto to Montreal.  This 6 day event is an annual fundraiser in support of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.

I was incredibly proud of Jordan and two of my other “adopted sons” – Trevor and Dempsey – who took on this challenge in spite of having no long distance cycling experience. They borrowed and bought whatever equipment they could, spent months training and fund raising before the departure date at the end of July.

I was horrified when we heard the stories afterwards.  Not only had the weather been unkind, it had been outright dangerous.  I cried when I read accounts written by some of the riders which had been posted on Facebook.

… but they had persevered.  These amazing people felt that they had been sponsored to ride to Montreal … not to ride only when it would be easy.

Jordan recently sent an email to each of his supporters describing the event and what it meant to him, with photographs from their journey.  With his permission – and that of Dempsey and Trevor – I am sharing his email with you.  I apologize in advance that this post is much longer than I would usually post, but I think it is worth the read. All the photos in his email belong to Jordan, Trevor, Dempsey or as otherwise indicated.

Two months have passed since Dempsey and I joined hundreds of riders and crew members on an epic 600km adventure to Montreal on our bikes. We are extremely grateful for your generous sponsorship, as you made it a reality for us to be part of the Friends For Life Bike Rally, an amazing cause supporting the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA). For being part of our reason to ride, we would like to share with you the highlights of our journey.

After the anticipation, July 27th finally came and we were greeted by our fellow riders, crew, and supporters at Allan Gardens, located in the core of downtown Toronto. This was our first impression of just how massive this undertaking would be. 

It was an incredible feeling to finally see the culmination of the many months of training and fundraising we’ve done in preparation for the event. Not to mention, the reality of what we were about to do was hitting us – we had to get on our bikes and actually pedal to Montreal! We departed Allan Gardens full of excitement and exhilaration!

The first day of our ride was sunny, hot, and at times stressful as we navigated our way through traffic out of the city. It was inspiring to see our supporters cheering us from the sidewalks as we pedalled our way to our first stop – just outside of Port Hope. After 108km, we arrived in great spirits, set up camp, and socialized with our new bike rally friends.

What we didn’t know at the time was the massive storm headed our way, due to hit later in the evening. In fact, we only heard of its severity with roughly 30 minutes notice. Severe thunderstorms, high winds, hail, and a high risk of tornado – and it was passing right over our camp!

Did I mention that we were camping in a farmer’s field and there was no shelter but our own tents? We secured whatever we could, crawled into our tents, and hoped for the best! We were lucky in that we woke up with no water inside our tent. Others woke up drenched, with inches of water in their tents and little to no sleep to prepare them for the longest day’s ride of the rally – 126km.

A fellow rider took this picture from his tent:

rally 1

Photo taken by “Dan” and posted to Friends For Life Bike Rally Facebook page

Because of the storm, our food crew was unable to provide us with hot breakfast (and more importantly, no coffee!). The second day’s ride started later than planned because the organizers weren’t even sure it was still safe for us to ride. It was still pouring rain, and would continue to be for the entire day. In the end, those riders who were not comfortable going out on the roads were transported by bus to that evening’s camp, while the rest (Dempsey and I included) got on our bikes.

It was by far the most difficult day of cycling we had ever experienced – with very little sleep and food, we faced heavy rain, strong winds, slippery roads and cold conditions. To top it off, we had completely forgotten to pack any rain gear or a jacket. We rode that day with our sweaters and garbage bags.

rally2

L-R: Dempsey, Jordan, Trevor

As first year riders who survived a challenging day of cycling, making it to camp in one piece that evening was incredibly rewarding. We set up camp once more and looked forward to day 3 of the ride.

The third day is traditionally known as “Red Dress Day”. The red ribbon has always been the symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness, and all participants wore red dresses for the cause. It was a fun and impactful way to raise awareness, as hundreds of cyclists in red dresses wove in and out of small towns in Eastern Ontario – a sight for locals and passersby.

Luckily, it was also the shortest day of the bike rally. We arrived in Kingston at Queen’s University after 51km of cycling in our dresses.

Bike Rally 2014 - 7

L-R: Dempsey, Trevor, Jordan

Days 4 (110km) and 5 (104km) were long rides but felt relatively easy after day 2. The scenery was spectacular, especially through the Thousand Islands. I had done the drive to Montreal via the 401 so many times and had no idea what I was missing by venturing off the highway.

Day 5 culminated with the Candlelight Ceremony, where many participants shared their reasons for doing the ride, and talked about their personal connections with the cause. It was quite an emotionally charged experience. It really brought home why this ride is so important, and why the funds raised are so desperately needed by the PWA. The ceremony ended with the releasing of 16 Chinese lanterns over the St. Lawrence River in Lancaster, to celebrate 16 years of the Bike Rally.

We woke up the next day knowing we had 101km to go until we finished our journey. Departing for the final ride was bittersweet. As excited as we were to arrive in Montreal (and to not have to sit on a bike seat anymore) we didn’t want the experience to end. Prior to departure, Bike Rally organizers and representatives from the PWA expressed their immense gratitude for all the participants and sent us off for one last time.

It was a pleasant ride as we finally crossed the Quebec border.

Bike Rally 2014 - 3

All cyclists rode in to Montreal together – arriving at the Old Port in downtown Montreal. We were greeted at our welcome party in the Old Port with loud cheers from crew and supporters.

After cycling 600 km in the span of 6 days, we finally completed our journey! We had all accomplished what felt like an impossible mission. With bikes proudly raised up, we knew right away that we would be back again next year to do it all over again (in fact, we are already registered for the 17thannual ride!).

Bike Rally 2014 - 8

L-R: Dempsey, Jordan, Trevor

In total, the bike rally raised $1,148,506 for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation (PWA). The ride is the sustaining fundraiser for the PWA, with which they are able to provide the essential support and services so desperately needed by its clients. As a sponsor to our rides in 2014, we would like to express our sincerest thanks for your support. 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Family, Nature and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Riding For People With AIDS

  1. Pingback: A Little Bit Of Crazy | My Life Lived Full

  2. I admire your persistence and determination. You did something truly noteworthy. Congratulations!

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  3. jannatwrites says:

    What an amazing post/shared email. (By the way, length with substance makes for a great post.) That storm photo is wicked. I wouldn’t want to be in that in a brick house, much less a tent! The biking photos made me smile (the parade of red dresses must’ve been a sight to see!)

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the read.
      I assumed the lightning photo had been rendered in b&w. Last night Jordan told me it was actually in colour. It really was that black. Yikers!
      I’m really sorry we were away during the rally. Next year I hope to see Red Dress Day in person. Witnessing 200+ cyclist roll into town wearing red dresses would be a sight to see 🙂

      Like

  4. What an inspirational trio – I was so impressed to think of them battling on through such terrible weather. Love those dresses although that victory shot at the end is quite something…and I enjoyed the legs hairy or not!

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  5. lumar1298 says:

    Great! Nice job on their part…

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  6. Sue Slaght says:

    Congrats to your son and his adopted brothers! Such an admirable feat and especially in the face of such horrid weather. The red dress photo is adorable. Well done to them I say.

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  7. stvrsnbrgr says:

    BRAVO!! Though Jordan’s red dress was rather scandalous. 🙂

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  8. Sammy D. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Joanne, and to your ‘sons’ – biological and beloved – for their courageous ride in such trying conditions. Not only can they take great pride in their generosity for a worthy cause, but their mental strength will be with them the rest of their lives.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I’ve always believed you learn a lot about yourself when the going gets tough. These guys discovered they have a very strong core and their values are in the right place!
      I think you’re right – this experience will stay with them always. It alright is a bright, warm memory.

      Like

  9. bulldog says:

    Now that is impressive and to take on the weather… commitment… to them I say Kudos and respect… well done…

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  10. Lynn says:

    Oh my goodness Joanne. This is one of those moments as a parent, where you stand back & marvel at the amazing human beings your children have become. To have had some small part in helping to teach them, to guide them & to aspire to be all they can be, is the greatest gift we can ever receive as a parent, in my opinion. Congratulations to your “boys”! What an incredible journey & one that will impact many lives as a result of their efforts!

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  11. What determined and courageous young men. I can’t even think about the danger they were in because of the weather. What pride you must have in your son and your adopted boys. To top it all off they brave to wear those red dresses. Talk about stamina and character. ❤ ❤ ❤

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  12. Wow! Amazing. Inspiring! What a fabulous tale to be able to tell, with some great shots too. You must be proud of raising a son with such determination and a caring attitude. One who looks good in a red frock too, lol.

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  13. Helen C says:

    What a great thing these young people have done! It’s people like them make this a wonderful world. Relax… no need to worry about the storm for now. So hard to be a mother… 😉 Helen

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    • joannesisco says:

      Yes! … it is really hard being a mother! No matter how big or how old our kids get, we never stop worrying about them.
      … and you are right … the world needs more people like them 🙂

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  14. I would not only have written this post but I’d be putting copies of it on windshields all over your town! And wearing a button that says “I’m Jordan’s Mom.” And would start every conversation with “Have I told you about my son and his friends?” Because those three guys are so awesome. And the photograph of that storm is absolutely terrifying. Imagine these three years from now and the stories they’ll share for life! Wonderful, Joanne.

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    • joannesisco says:

      LOL – you made my day! Apparently it’s normal to want to crow when our kids do something awesome!
      There is no question that every person involved in this year’s bike rally has major bragging rights for surviving the ordeal.
      … but I hope no one I care for ever finds themselves in a tent during a storm like that again!!!

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  15. Holy cow, Joanne, these young men are truly extraordinary examples of the kind of human beings you keep your fingers crossed your kids will turn out to be one day. You must be totally chuffed. The energy, the effort, the determination, and the massive heart these fellows display is mind-boggling and warms my soul. Congratulations to them for their marvelous achievement, and ‘all hail’ to the folks who raised these young men to where they stand proudly at the finish line.
    Maybe make a few more while you’re on a roll? 😛

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      HAHAHAHAHA! Unless I’m blessed with grandchildren some day soon, I don’t think I’ll be ‘raising’ any more little ones 🙂

      Needless to say, I’m really proud of them and even more so at their intention to do it again next year.

      Like

  16. My God…..waking up in a tent of rain would’ve been the end of it for me! Fine boys you have there, Joanne and wow, that lightning pic is something isn’t it?

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  17. Wow! That is so fantastic! You must be one proud mum (and relieved you didn’t know about the storm at the time – yikes.) Congrats to those inspiring young men.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I am sooo happy I didn’t know what was happening on the ride until after the fact. I’m already a worrier.

      These guys are so proud of what they’ve accomplished and so they should be. This would have broken many people (me included).
      … and of course, I’m REALLY proud ❤

      Like

  18. Stupendous, all around. I’m proud for you and for the riders. And must tell you, that lightning shot is remarkable!

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  19. What an ordeal! I’d have taken the bus to the next cake shop. In my red dress 😉
    That lightning photo is fantastic!

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    • joannesisco says:

      I would have joined you on that bus! … I can be a big wimp, especially where tents, lightning and tornado warnings are involved!

      These guys in their red dresses make me laugh every time I look at the picture and the lightning photo makes me shudder!

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  20. What amazing young men you have there. Happy they finished the ride safely and in terrific spirits. This experience will serve them well throughout their lives, reflecting on it, drawing from it and more importantly understanding they helped carry AIDS awareness one further step. Good on them.

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    • joannesisco says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more.
      Considering the conditions in which they rode during this year’s rally, anything in comparison will be easier.
      I think they were also very humbled by the people they met from the Foundation and their stories.

      Like

  21. NancyTex says:

    You should be very proud of your boys, and they should be very proud of themselves. The 5 years in a row I participated in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer 60k walks were some of those most memorable, emotional and proud moments of my life. Big props to Jordan and his crew.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I think you hit the nail on the head. The challenge is one part of it … you learn a lot about yourself when the going gets tough … but there is also the cameraderie of the other participants, and the stories both hopeful and sad. LIke you, they found it very emotional.
      Kudos to you for doing the 60km walk over 2 days … for 5 years!!! That’s a biggie!!

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Aw damn, Jo, you made me cry!!

    Fantastic!!

    Blimey….

    I LOVE Dan’s photo of the lightening and the one at the end raising their bikes in a toast (of sorts)

    Wow 😀 xx

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I’ve shed a few tears too Sam.

      They worked really hard, they met the challenge head-on, endured unexpected hardship … and happily plan to do it again. The world needs more fine young men like these! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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