Battlefield Bike Ride raises money for mental health

The cyclists complete an impressive fundraiser in Europe that pays tribute to Canadian veterans, past and present.

One of the main fundraisers for Wounded Warriors Canada is the Battlefield Bike Ride, where participants cycle hundreds of kilometers through areas significant to Canada’s military history.

This year, cyclists cover 400 kilometers to pay tribute to the contribution of Canadians and Newfoundlanders during the last 100 days of the First World War.

As the Canadian Corps took victory from France to Belgium from August to December 1918, the triumphs came at a high price. Canadians and Newfoundlanders suffered over 45,000 casualties.

One of the Battlefield Bike Ride riders, Conception Bay South Fire Chief John AT Heffernan, joined CTV Morning Live Atlantic this week from Valenciennes in northern France.

While the cyclists had to contend with high temperatures, he said the ride had been “fantastic” so far.

“It’s a great area for cycling, very historic, very relevant to the 100 Days of Victory. It’s been a great trip so far. I’ve been doing it now since 2014. This year it’s one of the smallest groups we’ve had, so the pandemic obviously had an effect on the numbers, but still a very big one.

Heffernan says the ride happens for several reasons.

“One is to educate the public about some of the issues that not only military, veterans and veterans, and first responders face from an operational stress injury perspective. It certainly helps to raise awareness of this and its importance.

The other purpose of the hike is to support mental health programs offered by Wounded Warriors Canada.

“Obviously we have to have the funding model to support that. The funds raised are very important. So this year, I think, so far – and the donations will continue to come in after the race – we’re just under $400,000. But since we started doing this in 2014, we’ve been very close to four million dollars.

Heffernan says it’s interesting to hear all the different reasons people sign up.

Attendees include current military, first responders, civilians and Canadians who may not even be interested in cycling, but have an interest in supporting the cause

“We have people who come back year after year, but we have people who come on specific rides because they have specific reasons for doing so. Whether it’s a family connection or a personal connection with a military family member or a first responder that they’re trying to fundraise for, or maybe they’re facing an operational stress injury. There are a whole bunch of different reasons and everyone has their own personal story.

The Battlefield Bike Ride ends Friday in Mons, Belgium.

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