For 25-year-old Jason Thorpe, touring the Maritimes by bicycle isn’t just a physical feat – it’s a venture that’s deeply personal.
The 1,700-kilometre journey aims to raise $20,000 for the Ronald McDonald House Atlantic, which housed his New Brunswick family while he received life-saving treatment for childhood leukemia at the age of nine.
“We didn’t fully know what we were getting into, but the Ronald McDonald House was here,” Thorpe told Global News the day before he kicked off his tour.
“…Mom and dad and my sister were welcome here with open arms, so you don’t really know that you need a place like this until something like this happens.”
Thorpe kicked off his two-and-a-half week ride in East Hants, N.S., on Sunday. He expects to cycle upwards of 100 kilometres a day, and to meet up with other cyclists for different legs of the trip.
“There’s been a lot of training… significant mental training,” he described, “changing the way I’ve thought from previous sports like hockey, where you go out as hard as you can for the 30 to 45 seconds, to all of a sudden you’re biking 75 to 120 kilometres a day.”
The plan is to do a loop of the Maritimes, reaching Prince Edward Island by ferry, travelling down through New Brunswick to Digby, N.S., and then ending the journey back at the Ronald McDonald House in Halifax.
“I know I’m not the only one, I’m not the only story either that’s relied on a place like the Ronald McDonald House,” he said.
“They’re extended family at this point, which makes this such a pleasure to do for them.”
Indeed, while the funds raised for the tour are going to the Ronald McDonald House, the journey itself is honour of Rebecca Schofield, a housemate of Thorpe’s while he underwent cancer treatments.
Schofield, who passed away in February 2018 after a battle with brain cancer, inspired the global kindness campaign, #Beccatoldmeto.
“When you go look at the Ronald McDonald website, our photos are right beside each other in ‘Family Stories,'” he said. “It wasn’t hard to make the decision to do it in her memory and honour. She was an incredible person.”
Thorpe’s fundraiser has already raked in more than $7,000. Katie Greene, manager of annual giving for the charity’s Atlantic branch, said there’s no question that he’s among the “individuals who go above and beyond” to make daily operations at the houses possible.
“When Jason approached us and said he was going to travel through the Maritimes, we kind of went, ‘That’s our dream Community Champions Initiative!‘” she said.
“So not only is he in one community being an advocate for us, but in all the communities where our families are across the Maritimes.”
The Ronald McDonald House in Halifax hosted 578 Maritime families last year, while its family rooms at the IWK and Moncton hospitals hosted more than 45,000.
To donate to Thorpe’s Maritime Tour, visit rmhccanada.ca/MaritimeTour.