Here's a cool story:
Don Patterson, a good friend of the Thomas family and the person who actually introduced us to cross country skiing, is currently riding his bike across Canada to raise funds and awareness to help Canadian kids become more physically active. He started in Vancouver on June 26 and is riding 200-300+km a day (a day!!) towards the east coast where his ride will conclude. How neat is that? You can check out his ride blog at www.ykids.blog.com
Don is riding on behalf of YMCAs across the country. I grew up as a Y kid, spending loads of time swimming, playing in the gym, learning Tae Kwon Do and attending every version of day camp and overnight camp imaginable so Don's ride is inspiring and encouraging to me on many levels. The Y is unique and special in that it's much more than simply a gym or swimming pool, they represent entire communities and serve as a place for people to gather and grow healthier through exercise, friendship, sharing of culture and charity. Possibly the best thing about YMCAs in Canada is that they do not restrict membership to only those lucky enough to afford it but instead offer a wide range of subsidized membership and program options to allow for maximum community participation.
Don is riding to raise money so that more kids and families can become involved in Y programs. Why is this important? It's important because active families and kids are healthier and more positively engaged in community life. The spinoffs of this are huge! Studies show that healthy, active kids are more likely to perform well in school and less likely to suffer depression or diabetes and less likely to get involved in trouble outside of school. Kids who are healthy and do better in school are more likely to attain higher levels of education, get better jobs and have fewer sick days and health problems in the long term. In simple terms this leads us to a economically stronger and healthier Canada!
Another key message of Don's ride is to promote the belief that each of us can make a difference in the community around us, if we take the time to try. Not everyone is able to contribute by riding across Canada (that's Don's idea anyway!) but we can all find some way to get involved. Great ways to do this are as simple as taking the time to play soccer in the park or go swimming with your family, kids or friends who might not get out and try it otherwise.
I am inspired by Cycling for Strong Kids and have made it a personal challenge to myself to do more to become engaged in promoting active, healthy lifestyles for Canadian kids. I have previously donated to the YMCA Strong Kids program and will do so again this year. Beyond that, I am striving to be a role model in the ski community for younger athletes by taking the time to stop and chat with as many kids as possible and sharing my energy and enthusiasm for sport.
What are you going to do?
Take a look at the Cycling for Strong Kids website to learn more.