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Peterborough rower’s all-day Solstice Row to support ALS Canada

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Peterborough rower plans all-day Solstice row for ALS awareness
WATCH: Mark Ricketts, 52, is preparing for the longest row of his life. On June 21, the longest day of the year, he will hit the water at first light and row until dark. in support of the ALS Society of Canada – Jun 14, 2023

A rower in Peterborough, Ont., plans to kick off summer on the water, rowing from sunrise to sunset to help support people battling ALS.

Mark Ricketts has been training for months for his June 21 adventure which will see him row continuously back and forth on the Trent Canal to the Peterborough Lift Lock. If successful, the 52-year-old will have rowed for 17 straight hours — or nearly 130 kilometres.

“See how far I can actually go — hopefully I aim to do at least a triple marathon, but if I can do more, I absolutely will be doing more,” said Ricketts, a native of south Wales who moved to Canada 22 years ago.

June 21 is known as Motor-Neurone Disease Awareness Day. Ricketts’ mother died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a progressive disease that impacts the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells, leading to loss of muscle control.

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“There is no effective cure for this at the moment so it can feel quite isolating, and quite lonely because it’s too easy to be stuck at home when you’ve got ALS,” he said.

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Inspired to make a difference, he will hit the water and continue to row for as long as he can, physically and mentally, as a visible sign of support for those battling ALS.

According to the ALS Society of Canada, based on a 2018 study, an estimated 3,000 Canadians are currently living with ALS. Annually 1,000 Canadians with ALS die and approximately the same number are diagnosed with the disease. Approximately 80 per cent of people with ALS die within two to five years of diagnosis.

“So I wanted to do something very visible in support of people with ALS,” said Ricketts. “To let them know they’re not alone; to let them know how much people really do care. And I notice every time I go up and down the river, people are waving at me, shouting to me, tourists at the Lift Lock will take my photos.

“Because I’m so visible I thought it would be a great opportunity to raise awareness for ALS and to show people with ALS how much they actually are cared about.”

Ricketts, who lives in nearby Warsaw, is a member of the Peterborough Rowing Club. He rows four times a week along the Trent Canal.

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“Everyone trains for the two-kilometre race which is over in eight minutes. I don’t really race,” he said. “I just like going out as far and fast and as efficiently as I can.”

And on the first day of summer, he encourages residents to visit the Canal or Lift Lock to cheer him on. Donations can be made via his page on ALS Society of Canada’s website.

“I’ve never rowed this far or this long ever in my life before,” he said. “Hopefully there will be people shouting for me from the shore and that will help me keep going, give me some incentive not to stop. Give me incentive to go as long as I can, and do the absolute best that I can just to show people experiencing ALS, their friends and families, that we are willing to work hard for them and we’re willing to put the effort in.”

— with files from Meaghan Roy/Global News Peterborough

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