Ride For A Dream: Project Spotlight

I’ve never met anyone that identifies as “anti-environmentalist” or “anti-animal rights”, because it seems obvious that you would support them. If you asked someone, they would say that they are obviously pro-Earth, and pro-nature. But I know very, very few people that make a point of not using a car, or that don’t eat animal products, small things that make a huge difference to causes they claim to support.

So if asking someone to throw their cup in the green bin is too much … how do people give up their lives temporarily and bike to Montreal from Toronto, all to raise money and awareness for gender based violence?

With great ease, apparently.

Ride For a Dream is headed into its 4th annual bike ride to fight gender-based violence, and is growing exponentially every year. In 2013, a group of four partook, jumping to almost 20 members last year. With their bright red outfits, they stick out on the highway and you can’t help but be intrigued by what is going on. I was lucky enough to talk with Alexander Waddling, the founder of Ride For a Dream, and Lavinia Tanzim, the director of community engagement.

What inspired you to get involved with RFAD? It seems like the kind of organization that people are obviously inclined to support, but not “bike-3000-km” level of support.

Alex: Basically, I was inspired to start Ride for a Dream after realizing how prevalent violence against women is. Respect for women (or everyone, for that matter) was ingrained into me from childhood. I was raised by my mother in a primarily single parent household, so it never really occurred to me that people could discriminate against someone based on your gender. After leaving home and coming to the city, it opened my eyes to how widespread violence against women actually is. That’s when I started getting more interested in feminism and feminist ideologies. At the same time, there aren’t very many male feminist figures for young men to look up to, so I was especially interested in finding a way to engage men with this issue.

Around the start of 2012, my friend Danny and I decided on doing the cross-country bike ride to Vancouver, so that’s when we decided to incorporate the two interests to create Ride for a Dream. Leading up to the first ride, we honestly didn’t really train much for it… You can take that how you will, haha. We were already interested in cycling before that, and decided to take on the ride as a personal challenge. A lot of it was learning as we went along. Honestly, even with all the training in the world, nothing can really prepare you for that experience.

Ride for a Dream is a campaign to end violence against women. I was wondering if the goal is to help raise funds for other non-profits, education, or something else?

Lavinia: The first year, we fundraised for The White Ribbon campaign, an organization to engage men to end violence against women. Since the first couple rides, RFAD has evolved. It started out as a ride with a cause, now it’s more a cause with a ride. Also, we aren’t just focused on violence against women anymore. We’ve expanded to include all gender based violence in the conversation, which includes non-binary and LGBT individuals, as they are disproportionately affected by violence as well.

Now, our primary objective is to be an educational bike ride. We aim to engage both young men and women to be a part of the initiative, to become ambassadors for gender equity in their communities. The fundraising is still important, but it comes secondary to the educational aspect. As we grow and partner with other cities (such as Montreal), we fundraise for local shelters. For example, the Toronto faction fundraises for The Schlifer Clinic, and the Montreal faction would fundraise for initiatives based out of Montreal.

Did any mishaps happen along the way?

Alex: We’ve definitely had a number of hiccups. The first year we did the ride, there were two instances where we just narrowly missed a rock slide and mud slide while biking through the Rockies. This was a huge eye-opener as to how dangerous this venture actually was. I also crashed my bike part way through the second ride, and had to complete the ride with a fractured rib.

Now that we have a shorter distance, the ride is definitely more accessible for a lot of people, but bigger numbers increases the number of things that can potentially go wrong. I am a big proponent of the fact that if you can ride a bike, you can do the ride; but at the same time, I don’t want to downplay the fact that there are some dangers involved. We did have one incident last year where someone had to be taken to the ER due to dehydration early in the trip, but thankfully that was the most serious incident we had to deal with. All these incidents have been learning experiences. With expanding and planning the bigger rides, these are all things we take into consideration. We want to make sure we’re prepared for any potential problems to minimize the escalation of seriousness. That being said, many of the potential problems are preventable as well.

How can people get involved?

Alex: If Ryerson students want to get involved, they should check out our Facebook page which is “Ride for a Dream”, or shoot us an email at alexander@rideforadream.ca, We also have a website, which is www.rideforadream.ca, which is currently being updated.

We’ll be having a launch event on May 30th beginning at Sugar Beach. We’ll have a barbeque going, some tunes, and we’re going to end it off with a critical mass ride-out from Sugar Beach to Markham. If you can’t make it for the week of riding, we are welcoming people to ride with us for that. We will be sharing the promotional information for that closer to March.

If people are interested in getting involved but don’t want to ride, we are always looking for volunteers to help with support during the ride, as well as the workshops, and the events we’re holding leading up to the ride. As we continue to grow, we are hoping to hold more events on campus, including an on-going monthly workshop series, which is something we are always looking for volunteers for as well. If anyone is interested in that, send us an email at alexander@rideforadream.ca.