Friends for Life - Stories from the Road 2017

The Friends for Life Bike Rally takes place July 30 to August 4 this year. During the rally, we we will post updates that we receive from members of the team during their six-day Outreach event. 

Day 6: August 4, 2017

I have the privilege of reflecting on our final day of the bike rally. I awoke this morning in beautiful Lancaster at the Glengarry Campround. Our tents remained mostly spider free which was a great thing, especially for Niki.

The day 6 warm up is a much anticipated event for the riders, at the CMCC interns are presented with the opportunity to let loose and "entertain" the riders. We had planned the music, but the dance portion was left mostly to a whim. The riders thoroughly enjoyed our performance, and we all had a blast showing off our moves. For a taste of our performance check out pictures on social media.

Upon arriving in Montreal we pulled into the Gray Nuns Inn, a repurposed nunnery where we will be staying the night. We then unpacked our supplies and headed to the finish line where the cyclists would complete their 6 day ride. After a heavy rainstorm, the riders arrived in groups, which proved to be an exciting and rewarding experience for all involved. We helped these people achieve their goal of completing the ride, some of whom, due to injury, would likely not have been able to do otherwise. It was an emotional experience for all, and one I will not forget. After an emotional closing ceremony, it was announced that currently $875,000 has been raised this year by the Friends for Life Bike Rally, a tremendous accomplishment for all.

This experience has been a whirlwind of fun, emotion, friendship and of course, excellent chiropractic care. This week has not only been a great learning experience in terms of chiropractic skills and acute injury management, but held a deeper meaning, that is present and alive within our hearts. We have built friendships, been accepted into the community, and embraced this week to the fullest. I would like to thank Dr. Jacobs, Dr. D'Arcy and Dr. Woodward for all of their guidance over the past week: Each of you has made this a great learning experience for all of us, and we are so appreciative of your excellent leadership. It was fun getting to know you personally, and seeing you outside of the work environment! To any future Bike Rally interns, embrace the week, keep an open mind and heart, and enjoy every minute.

Day 5 - Poz Day: August 3, 2017

Today was Poz day. The day where if someone wished to disclose their HIV+ status, to the community they could wear a special jersey. The amount of support and companionship this day was overwhelming. Every member in the rally showed compassion and love to support those who were disclosing their status , some even for the first time. It was truly inspiring to see, this community trying to end the stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS.

The cyclists travelled to Mille Roche island for lunch where we treated during the break before they headed to Lancaster. All the cyclists made really good time on this leg of their travels and they were all very excited to get back on the road.

After we made it to Lancaster we set up our equipment and then made our way to Dairy Queen where a portion of all ice cream sales goes to the People with AIDS foundation. After our ice cream treat we had a long day of treating in the evening before we were free to enjoy the evening.

Even though I'm exhausted, participating in the bike rally and helping these cyclist and crew reach their goal to Montreal makes everything worth it. This experience has been truly life changing. It's incredible to see the sense of comraderie in this community and how strong not only physically but emotionally everyone that participates in the bike rally is. I've learned so much this week and have truly grown not only as a future chiropractor, but as a person. I could not be more thankful to be a part of the bike Rally and I'm sad that it's all ending tomorrow.

Niki Brown

Day 4 - Kingston to Johnstown: August 2, 2017

After an amazing sleep in an air conditioned room and a comfy bed, our morning was spent acknowledging the Top Fundraisers for the rally. The CMCC Friends for Life Team has raised $4,175.36 as of today [and still counting ;)] and we would like to thank each and every donor, anyone who wished us good luck on our adventure, and those who continue to support us on the way. We appreciate so much and being able to help the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation in a wellness aspect on the rally, as well as financially, has been phenomenal.

Another full day of treating in the books. We're all getting used to short treating times, and we were even able to swim before treating in the afternoon.

This evening, we took part in a candle lit celebration. As the sun set, our candles lit the beach and we sat and listened to individuals share their stories, express their gratitude or take the time to remember a person special to them. The spirit that the Bike Rally and PWA fosters is simply inspiring. We heard from individuals who had suffered in silence due to stigma, and found their home within the PWA and the many services they offer. Being a part of this service was life changing and eye opening. This entire week has changed me as a person and a future chiropractor. The support I have seen and experienced is something I will carry with me forever.

Tomorrow is Poz Day, where individuals who feel comfortable will wear a jersey identifying them as HIV+, and some of them will be disclosing for the first time.

2 days to go!


Katie Whitton

Day 3 - Red Dress Day:  August 1, 2017

Today was Red Dress Day. As a sign of support for the HIV/AIDS community, riders and crew donned their best red dresses . I squeezed into a red tutu, tossed on a red boa and started the day off by leading the warm up for the cyclists before they hit the road. Dr. Jacobs was a front runner for best dressed, donning a stunning custom polka dot dress. On the way to our next destination in Kingston we turned a few heads and many people at the gas station actually made a donation to PWA after asking us about our attire.

It was a beautiful sunny day and we set up right across from the water at Queen's University to treat the riders and crew. I'm meeting some awesome people and having a great time. The experience I am gaining is invaluable and I'm constantly inspired by every new cyclist that I meet.

While I am glad to be returning to shorts and a t-shirt tomorrow, red dress day is one I won't soon forget.

Liam Ryan

Day 2: July 31, 2017

I woke up this morning with a stiff back after lying on top of a bump on the ground, but as soon as I stepped out of my tent and saw the sun rising over the lake and the riders and crew getting ready for the day, everything was beautiful. We hit the road to lead to pack for the first aid crew and the energy was amazing. Everyone was in high spirits and ready to take on the longest day (and hottest so far).

It was a great day for the riders and crew.  We arrived at the camp site, pitched our tents – and then were hit with a thunder storm! We just managed to set up all of our treatment gear for the day when   patients started trickling in.  Everyone seems so thankful to have us there, and we are so happy to have the privilege to participate.

 It was a busy evening with chiropractic appointments, so I learned quickly to streamline my assessments. I also had opportunities to share reports with patients and see a variety of conditions I have not yet seen in clinic. The interns were happy treating and cyclists and crew were happy being treated.  Now we are settling in for the night for Bike Rally's Got Talent. Overall a fantastic day!

Lydia English

Day 1: July 30, 2017:

Waking up in the AM was brutal, and I am a morning person! However, from the second we arrived at Allan Gardens, I could tell that the early wake up was well worth it because the sense of community, support, and passion was invigorating. After introductions and warm up, we were able to see the riders off. The encouragement from the community, friends, family, and loved ones was inspiring.

Once on the road, the real work started. There were crashes, falls, bumps, and bruises, but nothing brought down the mood or prevented the smiles, laughs and good spirits

At the end of the day, we treated the riders, who were genuinely thankful for our help and treatment. I found the first day exhilarating. It made the hard work and preparation that went into this, all worth it! At the beginning of the day an intern from a previous year said that this outreach was her favourite experience at CMCC, and after one day I can see why. I am truly blessed to be a part of this event and I feel it will be a life changing experience.

Andrew Mercer

Stories from the Road 2016

It is hard to put into words the incredible impact this past week with the Friends for Life Bike Rally has had on me, both personally and as a future health care professional. I went in excited, knowing we would be providing support to an amazing cause, but I was also a little nervous as to how the week would unfold. By the end of the first day, any anxieties were long forgotten as I was able to experience one of the most uplifting and welcoming communities I have ever witnessed.

The environment of support, non-judgment, and friendship only grew as each kilometer and each day passed. We saw people power through extreme weather, falls, and injuries on little sleep, and all with a beaming smile. When Poz day arrived, those who courageously chose to disclose their positive status were greeted with love, support, and the recognition that we are all the same, regardless of labels that may seek to divide us.

More than a few tears were shed as we watched the riders stream through the finish line in Montreal, knowing the physical and emotional weight they carried the whole way; the sense of accomplishment and pride could be clearly seen in all our faces, not only in completing the journey and collectively raising over 1 million dollars for PWA, but just as importantly, in spreading awareness and creating dialogue towards ending the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

My expectations going into this journey were high, and now that’s it’s over, I can say that they were far, far exceeded. I feel so grateful to have been welcomed into this wonderful community of amazing people and to be given the opportunity to help such a vital cause. Friends for life ♥

Sincerely,

Laura

Day 6: July 29, 2016:

What an amazing day to celebrate my 25th birthday with 200 new friends! We started the morning of Day 6 with our final warm-up with all the riders and crew (we had quite the audience). We had to raise the bar from last year and I think we did just that, I'm sure there are a few pictures and videos floating around somewhere.... It was so fun to get the riders pumped up for their final day of riding and have some fun in ridiculous costumes while doing it. Next years group has some seriously big shoes to fill!

Just when I thought the week couldn't get any better, we cheered the riders into their arrival in Montreal. Such an emotional experience to see them achieving their goals, I couldn't have been any more proud at that moment. A huge congratulations to PWA for raising over 1 million dollars this past year, they are such an incredible organization and go above and beyond for their members. We finished the evening celebrating at Club Unity in Montreal. It was awesome getting to mingle with everyone and congratulate all the riders.

I am truly thankful for have been given this opportunity by PWA, it is an experience I will never forget and there are so many memories I will cherish forever. A huge thank you to all the riders, crew and especially the CMCC interns that made my experience so incredible.

Lindsay

Day 5: July 28, 2016

The mood on the morning after the Candlelight Ceremony ‎was much different than that of every other morning on the rally. Day 5 is always Poz Day, where those who wish to reveal their HIV status can do so in a safe and celebratory space. Every rider and crew member was so supportive of those choosing to disclose and do their part to erase the stigma. Those riders wearing a Poz jersey lead everyone out of the campsite where we got to watch and cheer them on. Experiencing such positivity, support and love for those around us, and especially for those who have experienced such negative stigma in the past was wonderful and indescribable.

The rest of the day was full and busy for the CMCC interns treating the riders and crew on their second to last day of the rally. The overwhelming sense of excitement for Montreal, and the sense of accomplishment that the riders felt was ‎incredible and gave us the energy to push through the exhaustion. Everyone was filed with such joy and support throughout the whole ride, and this feeling was exemplified today.

The day ended with a group shower in the lake and a planning session for the epic Day 6 warm up. Stay tuned for that!

Donald Littlewood

Day 4: July 27, 2016

On day 4 we arrived at Grenville Campground, which sat right along the beautiful St. Lawrence River. All 7 of us were very busy treating riders today as the ride has been putting some wear and tear on their bodies from biking a total of 397.5 Km.

Today we were very fortunate to take part in the special candle light vigil along the beach of Grenville Campground as the sun set. With candles at hand everyone listened as courageous bike riders, volunteers and supporters told their inspiring stories. Some were personal experiences, some were about loss, and some were about impacts the bike rally and People with AIDS Foundation has had on their lives. It was beautiful to see such an open, warm and supporting environment for everyone to share in. The bike rally is such an encouraging and welcoming little community where anyone and everyone can find support and life long friends. Despite everyone coming from different walks of life, everyone had a common goal. A goal to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS and to end the stigma that unfortunately comes along with it still in 2016.

It was heart breaking to hear stories of HIV positive individuals who felt they could never disclose this information to their family members out of fear of rejection, but promising they felt safe within the bike rally community to share their story. On another note, it was inspiring to listen to a young man disclose to the the bike rally community that he tested positive for HIV 3 weeks prior to coming on the bike rally and felt he would take this opportunity to educate those around him to contribute to ending the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS.

After this inspiring evening, it was clear one of the biggest obstacles is the stigma around HIV/AIDS. After experiencing 4 days on the bike rally I have had the opportunity to interact with some of the most friendly, welcoming and inspiring individuals who are slowly but surely working towards ending the stigma.

Sam

Day 3: July 26, 2016

Day 3 of the bike rally was a special day in many ways... For starters, I wore a dress for the first time in my life - a tight red one. I have to admit, I thought I would feel pretty embarrassed to be walking around in such an outfit, but surprisingly it didn't bother me at all.

I ended up leading the warm up for over a hundred riders and then we travelled into my home town of Kingston, all while I got to show off my pasty-white man thighs! Reflecting back, I'm asking myself... Why did that extra small, bright red, Old Navy dress, feel like such a casual experience? The answer came to me shortly after - and it was all about community support. I wasn't the only person going out of my comfort zone on red dress day.

Collectively, this group of strangers became my support network... There is no way I would have put myself out there like that without knowing and seeing that there were other people going through the same thing. To me, this highlights the importance of having a sense of community, especially if you're feeling vulnerable...

This is one of the many things that the PWA foundation provides. When you come together, you become strong and confident as a collective. That's what the bike rally is all about - uniting as a group and and fighting the stigma around HIV/AID's. There are only few times in my life that I've been surrounded by such an amazing group of people and it has been truly inspiring.

A huge thank you to PWA, this has been a life-changing experience and it won't be my last time on the rally. #F4LBR

Sincerely,

Dave Zanet

Day 2: July 25, 2016

We woke up soaked from the night of pouring rain and we saw nothing but smiling faces as everybody was packing up their tent and getting ready for morning announcements and a hot breakfast!

Everyone was prepared for the longest day of the trip - 130km. It rained on the riders for the first half of the day and the CMCC crew huddled under our tent as we treated the riders as they came in for lunch at Henderson B&B in Consecon. The hosts were so wonderful as they provided their hands in helping with lunch service and homemade ice cream!

We met the riders at the most beautiful campsite in Adolphustown where the clouds had parted and the sun came out. There we treated the crew members and riders, which turned out to be very busy and rewarding as everyone was extremely appreciative of our services. After a long and sweaty day the interns and doctors took to the beach for a well deserved cool off in Lake Ontario!

After the swim the team went to the talent show and watched many of the riders go on stage playing instruments, dancing and singing.

We are all looking forward to tomorrow as the team will be sporting all our red dresses and a short drive into Kingston!

-Curtis Turner

Day 1: July 24, 2016

The day has finally arrived. We met riders at Alan Gardens Park out front of the Sherbourne Health Centre. The energy and excitement was inspiring. Friends, family and passer-byers were there to see off the riders and cheer them on.

We had our first opportunity of the rally to treat some of the riders in Oshawa at lunch. The seasoned riders were all so excited to see us set up for treatment.

After lunch, we headed to our camp spot for the night. We were set up and ready for the riders as they were finishing off the first leg of the rally.

We all had the opportunity to see a wide variety of aches and pains. As interns, we quickly came together to help each other out and work together. First day of treatment was much busier than expected which was great!

We are all looking forward to seeing how our skills continue to develop over the week. Also to see the riders accomplish each leg of the rally. It's very inspiring to see the riders come together as a family and to support one another.

I'm very excited for this opportunity and I'm looking forward to each day!

-Carly Mattson