Anja Rietdorf begins Anja’s Sunshine Ride this weekend from Victoria to Newfoundland

Anja Rietdorf begins Anja’s Sunshine Ride this weekend from Victoria to Newfoundland

Anja hits the road for the kids

The Sunshine Foundation of Canada and the children it helps are the big winner as Anja Rietdorf begins her cross-Canada ride

Her bike is tuned up, her camper has been stocked with healthy snacks and now all that’s left is for Anja Rietdorf to hit the road as she begins her cross-Canada ride for The Sunshine Foundation of Canada.

“I am really excited, to say the least. But most of all, I am extremely grateful and very much overwhelmed by the generosity and support from everyone who helped me with the preparations in the past months,” said Rietdorf, who begins Anja’s Sunshine Ride on Sunday from Mile Zero in Victoria.

The Sunshine Foundation is a non-profit organization that makes dreams come true for children with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illness.

“I chose The Sunshine Foundation because my younger brother has had developmental disabilities and epilepsy since birth and I understand the daily challenge for families. We forget them quite often because we don’t see them all the time,” said Rietdorf, who was a kindergarten teacher in her native Germany.

She moved to Canada three years ago, after 14 years in the Canary Islands as a landscaper, to work as a live-in family caregiver.

Rietdorf’s fundraising began earlier this year and has included silent auctions, garage sales, lunch and dinner events at local restaurants. She has also kept busy with training, including working out at Ladies World, which provided her with a membership.

“Many people came out to the silent auction at the Talkin’ Donkey, the garage sale at St. James School, lunches at Rosalinda’s Filipino Kitchen, and dinner at Boa Thong. They had a great time and we raised a lot of money to cover the essentials for the bike ride.

“I now have a truck, camper and trailer. Kelowna Cycle donated bike equipment, Lifemax special food made from chia seeds, Vernon Vintners wine to give to hosting families along my stops. Kal Tire, Naturally Yours, Wayside, Holiday Park Resort and many other businesses also made generous contributions.

“I simply cannot begin to name them all. Without this help I would not be here today to tell you that all is ready for a most promising start.”

Rietdorf will be on the road for close to 9,000 kilometres and has been selling each kilometre for $10, wrapping up in St. John’s, Nfld. at Mile Zero on the Atlantic.

She will be accompanied by two friends. One will paint their experiences along the way with the pictures to be auctioned later. Another friend will make a video of children across Canada who have received help from The Sunshine Foundation.

“I know of three families in Vernon who went to Disneyland with The Sunshine Foundation and also those who got special assistive equipment. I will hear how these other children’s dreams came true and have events in the communities I visit,” she said.

Rietdorf will be in Vernon May 19 with an event in Polson Park from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The fundraiser includes a bake sale, live music and a ride around the park with anyone who wants to join her. She’s hoping to see people who use wheelchairs and special bikes, as well as anyone else on wheels, and is also inviting local bands to perform and organizations and businesses to set up displays.

“I hope people would come out to cheer me on and have some fun.”

Rietdorf encourages supporters and anyone interested in her journey to follow her ride at www.sunshineride.ca. To make a pledge, click on “Donate Now.” She can also be followed on Facebook at Anja’s Sunshine Ride, and on Twitter.

“My body is ready to go; nevertheless I know the first two weeks will be tough. But I know for sure that I can do it.

“My all-important support team — Kim Lake and Rawle James — and I will be on our way to make every kilometre count in making dreams come true for kids with special needs who will be helped by the Sunshine Foundation.”

Once her ride is completed, Rietdorf plans to return to Vernon to work with people with special needs.

“This ride is my way to give something back to Canada as an immigrant. I took English lessons at Vernon and District Immigrant Services when I first got here and met many great people and we keep in touch. Canada has done a lot for me,” said Rietdorf. “Every kilometre counts for the kids and that’s the best motivation I have.”