By Connie Adair
Cycling across the country once would an accomplishment of a lifetime for most, but once is not enough for Don Patterson.
The 61-year-old broker/managing director at Royal LePage Signature Realty in Mississauga, Ont. cycled from Vancouver to St. John’s, Nfld. in 2012. This year, he will cycle from north to south, starting in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, on June 21 and finishing in Point Pelee, Ont. four weeks and some 7,000 km later.
This year’s trek, Spirit Runner Ride 2015, has the grandfather of four riding to increase awareness of the importance of physical activity for Aboriginal youth, to raise funds to support sports activities and to develop sustainable community bike programs.
He believes every child should have the opportunity to participate in sports, regardless of their financial resources, their physical abilities or their cultural background.
Studies show children involved in sports have lower rates of obesity and diabetes, do better in school, have lower rates of juvenile delinquency and have more self confidence, he says. That would be a welcome change in a community where more than 40 per cent of children are overweight or obese.
He has seen the power of sports on his own daughter and two sons. They overcame challenges and gained confidence through sports. The kids would do triathlons in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. It developed their self confidence and they had a chance to hang around with other children. “Every kid should have the same opportunity,” says Patterson, who set up a youth triathlon at the Mississauga YMCA seven years ago that continues today.
Don Patterson got involved with Aboriginal youth when, after his 2012 ride, he was invited to the Alberta Indigenous Games. He has been working with Aboriginal youth since. He has also been aware of the challenges within the community for years. His wife taught the first Cree kindergarten class in Edmonton and his father, a lawyer, worked in the Aboriginal youth justice system in the 1960s.
Patterson will cycle starting on National Aboriginal Day (the first 700 km on gravel roads) and plans to stop at many communities along the way. His goal is 250 km a day.
It’s not all about the cycling itself. He is also working with GEN7, an Aboriginal role model program, and Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart initiative to develop a sustainable sports program that will provide helmets and bicycles to Aboriginal communities that wish to participate.
Prior to his 2012 trek, Patterson cycled half-way across Canada. “After 58 years I found something I’m good at,” he jokes.
Don Patterson, a lawyer by profession, teaches real estate courses at TREB. He is on TREB’s Board of Directors and CREA’s commercial committee.
To donate, go to spiritride.blog.com and click on the donations page. One hundred per cent of donations go to support GEN7 and local YMCA programs.