This summer’s bike ride across Canada means many things for Anja Rietdorf.
It’s a way to raise money for The Sunshine Foundation of Canada, a way to work on an art project that will continue to give after the ride is over and a chance to see more of her new country.
“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.
The Sunshine Foundation is a non-profit organization that makes dreams come true for children with severe physical disabilities or life-threatening illness.
Rietdorf has come up with several ways to help make her trip raise as much money and awareness as possible.
“I’ll be on the road for almost 9,000 kilometres and I will sell each one for $10. Each kilometre that I go, I know I am making more,” she said.
Her ride, called Anja’s Sunshine Ride, starts May 12 at Mile Zero in Victoria and will end three-and-a-half months later at Mile Zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland. 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 as many 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.
She will be in Vernon May 19 with an event in Polson Park with 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 anyone else on wheels and is also inviting local bands to perform and organizations and businesses to set up displays.
Rietdorf is preparing for her ride by taking a Toastmasters course so she can speak confidently at public events, cross-country skiing and working out on her complimentary membership at Ladies World Gym.
“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.”
She plans to come back to Vernon after the ride and work with people with special needs. Look for her riding her bike in The Vernon Winter Carnival Parade.
There are several ways to help Anja’s Sunshine Ride — donations of any amount are welcome — and keep up with what she is doing. Things start with an evening event at the Talk’n Donkey on March 2, with a silent auction, and a garage sale, also in March. See her Facebook page Anja’s Sunshine Ride (you don’t have to be a Facebook user), go to her website www.sunshineride.ca, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-550-8116.
For more information about The Sunshine Foundation see www.sunshine.ca.