A local grandfather and ultra-marathon cyclist will be receiving the Order of Manitoba on Thursday for his years of dedication to charity work that give new meaning to the term ‘extreme’.
Winnipegger Arvid Loewen has spent the past 15 years cycling across Canada (four times), the United States (twice) and beyond, all in support of a street children’s rescue mission in Africa.
Loewen said he first got involved with the charity, Mully Children’s Family, as a way to make his long-distance cycling double as a way to generate awareness and donations for a good cause.
“Ultra-marathon cycling does take a long time, because I spend a lot of hours on the bike, and it didn’t sit well with me, so I wanted to do something with it,” he told 680 CJOB’s Sports Show.
“There’s no way I that I would be able to put this kind of effort into something if it wasn’t for a much bigger cause than personal challenge and satisfaction. Cycling is really not that big a deal in the picture of life.”
Loewen said his charitable work began in earnest almost 15 years ago when he modified a tandem bike and took three Kenyan kids from the charity on a 7,000 km journey across Canada. He did media interviews at almost every stop along the way, and let the kids tell their stories.
The trip, said Loewen, was supposed to be a one-off, but it turned into a much bigger commitment to the cause. Since he first got involved, he’s raised over $5 million for Mully Children’s Family by pedaling, pedaling, and more pedaling.
“I’ve been four times across Canada. I hold the Guinness World Record for cycling across Canada,” he said.
“What that means is I’m on a bike somewhere between 19 and 20 hours a day, sleeping about 90 minutes to 120 minutes a night, so it’s pretty brutal. It takes you into an area that most people are not willing to go.”
Loewen’s current challenge, Grandpas Can 2019, is running until August, and it involves him travelling 1 km locally for each of the 15,000 kids who have graduated from the charity’s programming over the past three decades.
As a grandfather of 12, Loewen said he named the fundraiser in an effort to encourage people that age shouldn’t be a barrier.
“Grandpas can still make a difference in the world,” he said.
“If you find something you’re passionate about, I think it’s OK to put 100 per cent effort into it. I’m so fortunate to be able to combine a passion for physical challenge with a cause that, to me, is worth it.”
While seeing the impact his efforts have on the kids helped by his chosen charity is Loewen’s real payoff for his extreme cycling, he said the Order of Manitoba is a very nice bonus as well.
“It’s a huge honour. I was surprised, I didn’t know this was happening. It’s humbling. It involves a lot more people than me because my family, especially my wife Ruth is very much involved in what I do,” he said.
“I think it will continue to be a big help in the ambassador I’m trying to be on behalf of destitute kids.”
WATCH: Racing across a country to save a child’s life: Winnipeg grandfather cycles to raise funds