Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

SPEAKING FOR SUPPORT — Cycling4Water (C4W) team leader Mike Woodard speaks at the Northern Collective church in Whitehorse last Sunday.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

MAPPING THE ROUTE — The route that Cycling4Water is planning on taking on their Sea 2 Sea 2 Sea ride is shown on this GAiN map. The team started on July 19 from Dawson City. They are hoping to return to finish off the last leg to Tuk at the end of the ride.

Cycling4Water biking 8500 kms to raise money for wells in Africa

The Cycling4Water (C4W) team are biking across Canada to raise funds to build 65 wells in Africa,

By Morris Prokop on August 4, 2021

The Cycling4Water (C4W) team are biking across Canada to raise funds to build 65 wells in Africa, in partnership with Global Aid Network (GAiN),. According to GAiN, approximately 785 million people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water.

This is the second journey for the team. They biked across Canada in 2014, logging nearly 7000 kms on their sea to sea journey. This time, their goal is to go “Sea to Sea to Sea.”

C4W participated in a service at Northern Collective church on Black Street in Whitehorse last Sunday.

Lyndon Dojohn, support vehicle driver and church partnership coordinator for GAiN, delivered a stirring sermon. This is Dojohn’s first time driving with the C4W team.

Team Leader Mike Woodard also delivered an inspirational presentation on the team’s efforts, including a story about a well that took 14 attempts in total before it finally became a gusher, with help from the power of prayer.

Woodard was joined at Northern Collective by C4W co-founder Rob Montgomery and team member Timo Itkonen.

The number 65 has special significance with this group. The average age of the team as of this July is 65. Woodard and Montgomery turned 67 in July, Itkonen turned 70 the day before they left on this trip, and the “kid” in the group, Gabe Mcreynolds, a newbie to C4W, is 56.

I sat down with Woodard after the service. He explained the significance of the number 65.

“It’s approximately 65 days of cycling – but it’s a little longer; because we take Sundays off – and then the average age is 65, and so we thought, ‘Let’s go for 65 wells.’ It seemed to ring nice, to have that as a goal. Last time we did 33, so actually our total … we’re hoping we can break 100.

“There’s 100 villages that have clean water, the transformation … especially the stat about kids who are dying from water-related disease, it just kind of breaks my heart when I see … like my granddaughter … our kids sterilize bottles, and I’m thinking they’re so careful. No matter how hard these people try, they’re starting with disease-ridden water, and it’s just heart-breaking.”

Woodard described their planned journey across Canada. “If we could have gotten into the North West Territories, our average would have been about 190 kilometres a day, and we wouldn’t be able to do that without a support vehicle … this week was kind of an easy week. In fact, we only did 545 kilometres this week. And after that, this next week in fact will be our hardest, and we’ll do over 1000.

“So we’re keeping a pretty good pace, just because of the size of Canada, and a window that we’re trying to fit it into. We’re pushing hard to get across the country.

“I told the team … ‘it’s kind of like being a racehorse at the starting gate. When COVID opens, let’s go’ … it’s complicated, because we were supposed to do it last year, in 2020, but because of COVID, obviously, we didn’t … it seemed like it was literally like that, and the door opened, and we were ready and we just took off.

“We were actually planning to leave on June 21, but delayed because of COVID, and set the start date in July.”

The group started cycling July 19.

“We drove up from Abbotsford … this is a big country! Just driving up to Dawson City I thought ‘are we ever gonna get there?’

“It was so exciting just to start out. We dipped our tires in the Yukon River instead of the Arctic Ocean, and took off.”

Woodard is very passionate about this noble undertaking, often getting quite emotional about their cause.

“You have to be careful what you say, because we did say, when we finished last time, ‘well maybe we should do it when we’re 65.’ It is truly thrilling to think that you can do something so simple that it transforms people’s lives. It transforms villages, and all we have to do is kind of pedal across the country and draw attention to it. And people have been so generous. In fact, we already have … 33 wells committed … we had 31 before we even started. It’s been stunning just to see how generous people have been. And so we’re anticipating that we may hit that goal of 65.”

Barely into their long journey, the team has already encountered some challenges.

“The conditions between here and Dawson City have been really difficult,” says Woodard. “The road construction … and one day it was raining … and then the wind … the last three days coming into Whitehorse, we had a headwind the whole time. And so that was really significant.”

“Next week every day is more than 200 kilometres, just because there’s not much there, so we thought we might as well just cycle. This first week we’ve reduced kilometres, and it’s kind of allowed us to get our sync as a team. And also we’ve had a few things, like Timo’s cable broke, and of all places, it was just like four kilometres out of Whitehorse. No place else would we have been able to get it fixed. Then Gabe’s mother in law passed away, so he won’t be with us next week, and so there’s all kinds of things like that. Some of the places we thought were campgrounds, they were actually closed, so you’re finding places to fit in. And we’ve been hosted a few times.”

Of course, there have been many great experiences along the way, such as one that occurred during the initial C4W journey in 2014.

“The fun part is really connecting with the people across the country. The first night on our last ride we were with a family in Victoria. They invited their kids and grandkids, the neighbours over, and we were chatting with them at night. And then these grandkids walked away, and we thought they were bored. When they heard us talk about for $8.50 you can give somebody water for a lifetime, they went up to their piggy banks, got $8.50, and brought it back to give it to us. And it was like ‘oh wow, we just had that happen!’” relates Woodard.

“And we’re still having it happen. People in the campground at Dawson City wanted to know what we’re doin’, and these three young women just said ‘hey, we want to help!’, and they gave us these $20 bills.

“Today we were out cycling here, just to explore the community, and this woman said ‘so what are you guys doin’, how come your shirts are all alike?’, and when we told her, she handed us a $50 bill. It’s really heartwarming.

“We stop at Tim’s fairly often, and we were at this one Tim’s on the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan (in 2014), and these two ladies, who are about our age, were sitting there, and started chatting with us, and said ‘yeah, when we turned 60, we just had a big party’, and so we were telling them we were kind of doing this to celebrate our birthdays, but also to do this. So when they got up to leave, they went and bought us two cards, and gave us $150 on a Tim’s card, just to help us along the way.

“And this time, I was just telling a friend of mine about it, and a couple of days later, he phones me back, and he says ‘yeah, you know what, my wife and I, we’re going to take a well.’

“Our family and friends have really rallied. In fact, we have more than $8500 from them come in towards wells.”

It costs $8500 to sponsor one well, which services about 1000 people.

So if 1000 people each contribute $8.50, it’s enough to sponsor one well.

“Every time we’re hosted or provided food, that kind of moves the sponsorship money into wells,” says Woodard.

From here, they head to Prince Rupert, which will take about a week, and that’s as far as they go west. After that, it’s the long journey to Halifax- about 6,264 clicks.

“We’ll dip our tires in the Pacific Ocean, and then we’re heading to Halifax,” says Woodard.

If you want to get involved, “on the website there’s a donate button, so people can donate through that,” explains Woodard. “The cool thing that GAiN does, is if that organization or individual takes a well, then they give them a specific village, and then they kind of identify, ok, here’s the village, and then they do a fulfillment report, which gives them some video footage of the well in the village.

“And you can dedicate wells … we as a family said let’s do it in honour of our granddaughter (Zoe). Others have done memorial wells for a loved one that’s passed away.

“It’s kind of like adopting a village … you take a village, you give them some resources, that really does transform … both health-wise and also the spiritual impact that can transform lives too. It’s something so simple that we take for granted.”

Woodard has a message for anyone interested in helping their worthy cause.

“The thing that motivates us is we want to give people the opportunity to give something good. As I shared, when you hear stats like there’s 785 million people that do not have access to clean water, that’s just overwhelming. But we can all be a part of simply taking a step towards … and the step is for $8.50 you can give water to a person for a lifetime. And that’s just such a simple thing. And we live so, so well in Canada, we just have so much, and we can really change the course of someone’s life, just by giving them clean water.

“There’s something fun about doing something for someone who can never pay you back. You’re giving, you’re not going to get anything in return, except just the satisfaction you’ve changed lives, you’ve saved lives, just by being generous and kind of thinking about other people.”

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