Rob Fetherstonhaugh went to Newfoundland this spring on a scouting mission for a cycling trip through Canada’s easternmost province.
People warned him the terrain was hilly and the weather could be wet, cold and variable – as in, conditions could change four times in an hour.
“And all those things turned out to be true,” says Fetherstonhaugh, BCom’78, DPA’80.
“But it was just an awesome time. The scenery is absolutely spectacular and the people of Newfoundland were extremely warm and receptive to us. So it was a fabulous trip.”The ride through Newfoundland had a higher purpose, as do all of the trips organized by Canada Cycles for Kids.
Founded by Fetherstonhaugh and fellow McGill graduate Marc Balevi, BCom’77, DPA’78, Canada Cycles for Kids stages cycling trips every summer in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada, which grants wishes to children who are dealing with life-threatening illnesses.
The 10-day cycle in July through Newfoundland, which started in Corner Brook and ended in St. John’s, raised more than $200,000, bringing the tally to $1,150,000, which Balevi and Fetherstonhaugh have helped raised for the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada.
Fourteen cyclists, many of them McGillians, shared the road during the last few days of the trip. Dave Kemp, BCom’78, accompanied them in an RV to offer support, “as he has done selflessly for years,” Fetherstonhaugh says.
Fetherstonhaugh and Balevi became friends when they worked at KPMG and later decided to launch Canada Cycles for Kids in 2002.
“It was Marc’s dream since high school to cycle Canada. He finally convinced me to do it,” Fetherstonhaugh says.
They agreed that if they were going to cycle across the country, they would do it for a charity and it had to be a national one centred on kids. “And Children’s Wish just fit awesomely into that,” says Fetherstonhaugh.
They want fellow cyclists to enjoy themselves and don’t pressure them to raise funds.
Most of the fundraising was done through their networks, says Balevi. The two friends also cover cyclists’ expenses such as hotel rooms. “We made sure every cent that we collected from others would find its way to Children’s Wish,” Balevi says.
They’ve each cycled more than 10,000 kilometres on different trips over the past 17 years, which have now taken them to all 10 provinces and even stateside.
There have been flat tires, but no serious mishaps.
“On the positive side, we’ve had two marriages that came out of the (trips)”, says Fetherstonhaugh.
The ride through Newfoundland was one of the most challenging “and we’ve done the Rockies twice,” Balevi says.
“Some of the hills that we had to climb in Newfoundland matched, and in some cases exceeded because of the incline, what we did in the Rockies. It was very, very, challenging. They call it ‘the Rock’ for a good reason.”
He and Fetherstonhaugh got their respective sons and daughters involved in the cycling trips “in hopes they’ll carry this banner,” one day, Balevi says.
“We’re hoping this will be continued for years to come.”