Friday, July 31, 2009

Montreal to Trois Rivieres

July 31
Repentigny, the home of Celine Dion was our meeting point this morning and there were a lot of us to meet. Andre, JP, Eric,Robert,and Martine, Carl, Dave, JF,and Samuel, Robert, Luc and Simon as well as Mel and Lindsay -14 in all. We were seen off by a small group of family memebers of the riders as well as well wishers. Shortly before it was time to go Andre came over to us. "Here." he said. "I was explaining The Ride to her the best I could and she gave me this." and he held out a handfull of coins and a few bills. See? That's what I'm talking about.

It was a beautiful long and leisurely ride to Trois Rivieres. Oops, did I say leisurly? It was fast - so fast we had to slow down because we were too early for the reception at our destination. We stopped for a few moments at the Auberge overlooking Lac St-Pierre to cool our jets and cool our thirst before heading into Trois Rivieres.

Don't worry Nicole, Robert had not given away any details of the event but we heard the band as we approached, then we saw the flags and the people gathered outside Les Suites Laviolette. What a welcome, from the cadets and Dragon Boat Ladies who provided the valet parking for the bikes to the Mayor's representative and a famous local artist.

In addition to a handsome cheque made out to le Fondation des maladies mentales, a special presentation was made to Lindsay. She received a unique handmade stylo de bois by the renowned artisan from Trois Rivieres, Denis Lefebvre. The pen is in recognition of Lindsay's writing, especially the story she has shared on The Ride.

Later we went out to dinner where we had the opportunity to speak with two representatives from the Anna et la mer (Anna and the Sea)a non profit group that creates, promotes and implements services for children living with a parent affected by a mental illness. All too often when a parent is ill with a mental illness, young children are not included in explanations for their parent's behaviour. Their world is turned upside down, they generally suffer in silence, unable to verbalize their emotions. They feel guilty and somehow responsible. Studies tell us that children of a parent with a mental illness are at risk for emotional. behavioural and intellectual difficulties. They are at greater risk for mental illness themselves. Anna et la mer serves to minimize these risks and to provide emotional support for these children.

Many thanks Nicole for organizing a special welcome to Trois Rivieres.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hawkesbury to Ste. Therese, Montreal

July 30

The morning looked gray and overcast - not a good sign, but the sun came out during breakfast and we were having summer with our eggs.

We met our new riders- Alexandre, Samuel, Mathieu and Robert plus Luc and Simon, n the Ontario side of the Confederation Bridge and Robert lead us into Quebec.
It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm with a tail wind. Robert took us on a quiet road that closely followed the St. Lawrence, through the country past farms and villages. The fields and forests were green and the gardens were bursting with colours. Robert's route lead us all directly to his beautiful backyard where we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon around the pool.

At one of the stops, as were were packing up after the riders had gone a woman walked over to the RV. " Qu'est-ce qu c'est?" she asked. "Nous sommes roulons pour la sante mentale" I replied, pretty pleased with myself. "Oh, you speak english." was her reaction. "Ah, yeah." She then shared that her son has schizophrenia. Sometimes it has been hard for them, for him. She inquired about how to make a donation so I explained about the website and online donating or that she can mail in a donation if she would rather. I told her she could identify an agency or program of her choice and the donation would be forwarded to them. She was very pleased to hear that she could support The Ride for Mental Health and her donation would be directed where she wanted it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ottawa to Hawkesbury

July 29

We got back from Tuesday Night Races in Lachine to our Chateau late last night only to find no parking spots in the oversize lot. Staff at the hotel came up with a unique solution for us. On street parking is allowed for tour busses and the manager wrote us up a bus pass. Morning commuters were a little ticked but stoically went around without honking.

Pat plotted a perfect plan for us - the route went out along Sussex Drive, along the river and onto country roads. The first step in the route however, was actually about 15 steps. It was a relaxing day for me because I just had to follow Trevor, but maybe not so relaxing for the riders as they could see the dark and threatening clouds gathering behind us. Could they outrun the approaching storm?Apparently not. And it came down in buckets, causing minor local flooding.

Traffic was understandably light, as most people did not venture out in the pelting rain. But our dauntless riders, determined to finish the day, pressed on through newly formed lakes and rivers.

At one point Simon turned abruptly and doubled back, reacting to the sound of two little girls wailing in the rain. They had been caught in the downpour and couldn't get home. Simon rode over to the girls' home and alerted their parents. Crisis averted. Wouldn't it be nice if cries of help by persons living with mental illness could be met with this kind of sympathy and supportand willingness to help.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Montreal - Les Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine


July 28
Mel is a cyclist and it was Tuesday so it seemed only natural that we were headed to Montreal for Les Mardis Cyclistes de Lachine. This organization, run by Monsieur Rossi, has held professional bike races for ten consecutive Tuesday evenings during the summer, every summer, for 32 years. Cyclists come from near and far to compete here.
On the starting line prior to each race the traditional awarding of the yellow jerseys takes place. This particular Tuesday, for the first time ever, an honourary yellow jersey was presented to someone other than a racer. Mel received the yellow jersey in recognition of the importance of The Ride for Mental Health. It was an honour and a thrill to be recognized among such outstanding company. Mel then led the peloton for a lap around the 1.6 km course. Luckily, there was no tip over Shay.
Later, a cheque presentation was made on the podium in support of le fondation des maladies mentales. Over $10,000 was raised through the efforts of the Xerox Committee lead by Robert Ethier and Simon Mercier.
Check out this link

Ottawa Event

July 27
We were so excited for today - a series of media appointments in the morning followed by a public event on the steps of Parliament Hill. It started early - Shawn Tallon set us up with an appearance on breakfast television at A Morning with Liane Liang followed by 580 CFRA Radio with Mark Sutcliffe. Mel and Lindsay also appeared on CBC News Today with Nancy Wilson. Threatening skies cleared up just in time for the outdoor interview at the Chateau Laurier. We appreciate all the opportunities to reach large numbers of people through the media with our message of awareness.

It seems the weather was just playing with us all day - sun then downpour then sun then more downpour. It didn't melt attendence or enthusiasm on the Hill. The Police Band marched in followed shortly by Mel and Lindsay on their bikes - quite a scene. Daniel, the Town Crier read off a proclamation about The Ride for Mental Health. Then the unbrellas went up. The rain didn't really bother anyone except maybe photographers Kaila and Kevin but they captured some super shots despite the wet conditions.

A huge cheque in the amount of $25,000 was presented by the committee from Xerox to the Sens Foundation in support of the Royal Ottawa Foundation (the final amount raised at the event is expected to be in the range of $31,000.) The source of these funds was the SENSational Ride for Mental Health Event, a unique partnership between Xerox, lead by Shawn Tallon, and the Sens Foundation. Daniel Alfredsson, captain of the Ottawa Senators champions the "You Know Who I Am" awareness campaign for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, and the Senators loaned their Strength and Conditioning Facility for the unbelievably successfull stationary bike race.

Mel and Lindsay spoke to the assembled group and when Lindsay finished sharing her personal story several people came up and pressed cash donations in her hands. I had a chance to speak to the donors afterwards. One woman shared her son struggles with bipolar disorder. It has been difficult for the whole family. Too often people are quiet about the devastating effects of mental illness on not only the individual but family and friends.

We met Robert, an artist at Les Ateliers de l'Elan, who presented Lindsay with one of his paintings.

It was a special day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Into Ottawa

July 26
Last, last-minute changes to the route kept us on our toes, er, wheels all day. Not being from around these parts it's a little difficult to assess the suitability of roads for riders, especially a group. And for this segment did we ever have riders. Let's see, there were nine in all; Pat, Ted, Mike and George from Ottawa, Rob, Laura, and Tavis from Port Perry, Lindsay and Mel - ten actually, as Julie would join us enroute. And of course extra support drivers - Deb and Shawn and Bernie. We even had our own papparazzi - Kaila came out with Bernie.(the photos today are compiments of Kaila). Advice from our local riders provided a quiet and scenic route, so we all met at the curling club in Prescott, checked the map and were off.

We've been conditioned now to expect a few bike issues with each ride. Today was no exception. There were four flats amongst the all the bikes. With our experienced and prepared riders it wasn't a problem - kept the support vehichles hopping, though. Waiting for Mel's bikes in Ottawa was a tune up compliments of Micheal at Euro-Sports.

The last portion of the day's ride lead the bikers along the Rideau Canal into downtown Ottawa so I just pulled the RV up alongside the sidewalk in front of our hotel -the Chateau Laurier. Many thanks to Deneen Perrin for the gracious hospitality.

We hung around a bit as each of the riders arrived and de-biked, and as usual whenever the RV is stopped, passersby came up to us to ask about The Ride for Mental Health. We received several donations right on the spot. I had a conversation with an individual who thanked us for bringing awareness to mental health issues. Turns out he is a researcher working on developing new medications to help people dealing with Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Medication plays an important part in the recovery of individuals living with mental illness, in fact, research shows that 80% of individuals with a diagnosable mental illness and who receive treatment, experience recovery. That is the good news. The sad news is that it is estimated that the majority of people experiencing mental health issues do not seek treatment. Stigma is reported to be the the greatest barrier to getting help. We can all do our part to reduce the myths and misperceptions around mental illnes that lead to stigma and discrimination. Awareness works.