On a cool morning in late August, 24 cyclists gathered at All Saints, Sherbourne Street in downtown Toronto to hop on their bikes for a worthy cause.
“It started as a challenge among family to ride from Toronto to our family cottage,” said John Stephenson, All Saints’ former manager of outreach to the nearby Dan Harrison housing complex. “The first year, we had three people. The second year, we thought it would be a good way to raise money for All Saints.”
This year’s ride on Aug. 29 raised $3,400 for All Saints from donations included in the riders’ entrance fees. Mr. Stephenson hopes the funds will help support Take This Bread bakery, where they would cover nearly a year’s worth of ingredients for Toronto Community Housing tenants learning to bake and sell bread to the local community.
In addition to raising money, the cyclists also hoped to raise awareness of the challenges facing Toronto’s homeless population. “Mental health issues can be a big part of life for the homeless, sometimes hand-in-hand with addiction,” said Mr. Stephenson. “Programs like the ones offered at All Saints are needed and important.”
The ride is a serious undertaking for amateur cyclists. In one day, the cyclists rode from All Saints to Kennisis Lake in Haliburton, 230 kilometres away.
“You have to have trained all summer. We were on our bikes for seven and a half hours,” said Mr. Stephenson.
This year, the riders were joined by Tyler Hamilton, a well-known retired professional cyclist. Mr. Hamilton, who travelled from Montana to participate, is a former Olympian and Tours de France competitor.
Mr. Stephenson thought to invite Mr. Hamilton after reading his book, The Secret Race, in which he shares details about the mental health challenges he overcame as a professional cyclist.
“Tyler struggled with depression through his career, and we knew he’d be able to connect with many of our clients’ stories,” said Mr. Stephenson. “He also volunteers with his local homeless shelter and understands the work All Saints is doing.”
While organizing the ride is a big undertaking, Mr. Stephenson hopes to do it again in another two years.
“All Saints is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “This is a way for us to say that these issues are still important. And there are enough people willing to ride across the province to make that known.”
To learn more about the programs offered by All Saints, Sherbourne St., including Take This Bread, visit www.allsaintstoronto.com.