Most motorists glancing at the distance sign to Terrace and Prince George might see the 715 kilometres to the latter city and groan, settling in for a long journey.
But for Mikaela Pond and Jennifer Miller, who don’t even have motors on their chosen vehicles of transport, that number represents a challenge and an opportunity.
Pond, who grew up in Rupert before leaving for post-secondary in Prince George, is one half of the pair cycling all the way from the North Coast to Prince George and the two are doing it in just six days from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4.
“Basically, they’re just two places really close to my heart,” said Pond, who has lived extensively in both cities, on the day before she set out.
Pond and Miller are putting themselves through the gruelling, but scenic trip to raise money for Hope Air, a national charity that provides families in financial need with free air travel to their appointments in larger urban centres for specialized medical care not available locally.
Their goal is $6,000, enough funds for 24 flights that Hope Air can provide for northern B.C.
“I learned of Hope Air when I was a student, actually,” said Pond.
“When I was in the nursing club at UNBC, they were one of the charities that we wanted to do fundraising for on our long list of [candidates] and we never got to them. So, I’ve probably been wanting to fundraise for five or six years, I just haven’t had the opportunity until now.”
Pond and Miller are both registered nurses working in northern B.C. — Pond in Fort St. John and Miller in Burns Lake — and the two met when Pond was assigned to work in Burns Lake for six months. Through their jobs, the duo have met countless families and specifically, children, who need funds to reach a more urban destination to receive specialized care.
“We see children until they’re about 18 months old and then again in kindergarten. I’ve come across many children who have illnesses that require them to travel to Vancouver or Edmonton and they can’t afford it. They express how the cost is really hard on the family and their financial budget and it’s really nice when you hear those parents come back two or six months later and they’ve used Hope Air to get down to their appointments. It just made a world of difference in their life,” said Pond.
“I thought the trip [from Rupert to Prince George] really represents that distance that people have to travel, so we called it ‘Riding the Bridge to Healthcare’ because essentially that’s what I feel like we’re doing.”
Pond and Miller have a spotter vehicle riding along with them which displays a sign notifying passing vehicles of the Hope Air cause and to slow for the cyclists. They’ll also have a trailer carrying food, equipment and supplies for the near-week-long trip.
In getting prepared for the ride, Pond and Miller both rode around Fort St. John and Burns Lake, respectively, sometimes on a stationary bike, sometimes on a real one.
“I’ve been riding the farm roads around Fort St. John and Fort Nelson – whenever I work up there I bring my bike and go for a ride,” said Pond.
The cyclists have broken up their journey into six parts, one for each day. On Aug. 30, the pair rode from Prince Rupert to Terrace, starting their trek at 7:30 a.m.
On Aug. 31, they rode from Terrace to New Hazelton, on Sept. 1, they travelled from New Hazelton to Smithers, on Sept. 2 they’re biking from Smithers to Burns Lake, on Sept. 3, they’ll head from Burns Lake to Vanderhoof and on the last day, they’ll cross the finish line from Vanderhoof to Prince George.
As of Monday, the two have raised $3,885 or 65 per cent of their goal and are still accepting donations even after their ride is complete.
To donate, visit their website at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/1105M4.