If you happen to be travelling along the Trans-Canada Highway over the coming weeks, you may spot a certain 24-year-old cyclist on a mission to raise funds and awareness of ALS.
Hugo Lambert, a criminology student at the Université de Montréal and member of the school’s cycling club, is currently on a 50-day cross-Canada trek on his bicycle, nearly 5,000 kilometres from Vancouver to Montreal.
His tour started on July 18, and now, Lambert is crossing through the Prairies.
The aim of Lambert’s journey is to raise $50,000 in support of research and those who suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Lambert said ALS, a fatal degenerative disease that causes progressive paralysis of all the muscles in the body, was responsible for the death of his mother in 2020.
He created his project named Ride for SLA – TransCanada 2022 to honour her memory – to raise awareness of ALS and support those suffering from the disease.
Under the name U GO TRAVEL, Lambert hopes he can raise enough funds to help progress ALS research.
On Monday, Lambert arrived in Regina as part of his fundraising tour.
He said while cycling through the Rocky Mountains was a challenge for him, he admitted it’s no picnic riding through the Prairies.
“The Rockies were more physically challenging, but Saskatchewan is really tough mentally,” Lambert smiled. “Sometimes when you’re alone, you’re really alone, so you have to be your own friend or talk to the cow and make it easier.”
Lambert said the money he raises from his tour will be donated to the ALS Society of Quebec and to the Association for ALS Research in France, where he’s originally from. At the start, he set a fundraising goal of $5,000 and €5,000 for each respective association.
He said he hopes the money he can raise will help researchers discover a cure someday after what he witnessed his mother go through.
“This is a terrible disease and there is no solution. I wanted to make something great for her,” Lambert explained. “I experienced the disease and it’s really tough. If this can help other people, it would be great.”
Lambert said he is blown away by the support he has received so far as he has already raised a combined $40,000, prompting him to set a new target.
“I hope I will make my $50,000 goal. I wasn’t sure if I was able to, but now I’ve met a lot of great people on the way and I’m feeling more confident,” Lambert added.
“This trip is wonderful. I discovered myself, the world, other people, other cultures and, of course, Canada.”
People can follow Lambert’s journey on his Instagram page. He’s also extended an invite for people to cycle with him for a few kilometres, if they are interested in supporting him that way.
ALS in Saskatchewan
The ALS Society of Saskatchewan says there is no known cure or effective treatment yet for ALS and that approximately 2,500 to 3,000 Canadians currently live with the disease.
In Saskatchewan, the province has about 200 to 250 people diagnosed with ALS at any one time.
The society itself tends to have anywhere from 70 to 100 clients every year.
Denis Simard, executive director of the ALS Society of Saskatchewan, said they know that not everyone with ALS is being diagnosed properly.
“It’s what we call a disease by elimination, so you have to actually remove a lot of other diseases and options from the equation to figure out someone has ALS,” Simard explained.
“Unfortunately, sometimes a lot of people get misdiagnosed for a long time, especially those coming from smaller or rural communities where many doctors don’t have a lot of experience with these neurodegenerative diseases.”
Saskatchewan is statistically on par with the other provinces, according to Simard, adding there is one ALS clinic in the province based in Saskatoon.
He said there needs to be more awareness of the disease itself in the province so residents can understand the warning signs.
“It’s not just signs of getting old and things are hurting a little more. It’s really that you can’t do it. The disease progresses so quickly that you could be throwing a football one week and the next week you can’t seem to grip or hold onto the football,” he stated.
“If you’re unsure, talk to your doctors and our website has a ton of resources.”