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Four friends crossing Canada for HIV research

By Johnna Ruocco, The Graphic

Neil Schmitke, Chris Davidge, Yanir Levy and Tommy Spriet stopped at Portage Collegiate Institute on May 30, 2015, on their journey cycling from Vancouver, BC to Sydney, Nova Scotia to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). The initial goal to raise at least $10,000 was surpassed on May 28 and was increased to $15,000 due to strong early support for the ride. (Johnna Ruocco/THE GRAPHIC/POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

Neil Schmitke, Chris Davidge, Yanir Levy and Tommy Spriet stopped at Portage Collegiate Institute on May 30, 2015, on their journey cycling from Vancouver, BC to Sydney, Nova Scotia to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR). The initial goal to raise at least $10,000 was surpassed on May 28 and was increased to $15,000 due to strong early support for the ride. (Johnna Ruocco/THE GRAPHIC/POSTMEDIA NETWORK)

Four friends are on a journey cycling across the country to raise funds and awareness for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR) and spent a couple of days in Portage la Prairie to talk about their journey.

Beginning on May 9 in Vancouver, B.C., the group plans to spend 56 days cycling before arriving in Sydney, Nova Scotia by July 3. With an original fundraising goal of $10,000, the group bumped it up to $15,000 after reaching their original mark on May 28, less than three weeks into their journey.

We've had lots of support especially from friends and family and it's been amazing to see just the hospitality that everyone offers and the donations and everything to help reach our goal,” said Chris Davidge, a student at Western University. “We're going to keep pushing on and try to get $15,000 and just keep seeing how high we can get it.”

The cross-country journey was inspired after Davidge spent his gap year volunteering at schools and orphanages in Kenya in February 2014.

This all started back during my gap year between high school and university, where I was fortunate enough to be able to go travel to Kenya, and during my time there I taught at many schools and orphanages and the kids there I later found out 90 per cent of them were infected with HIV and many of them won't live to see their 20th birthday,” Davidge said.

There are 2.1 million new cases globally each year and 71,300 people living with HIV in Canada.

I organized this ride with the help of my friends, and got into contact with CANFAR and realized that this is still a serious issue in Canada and I'd like to do what we could to stop it.”

After returning home to Stony Plain, Alta., Davidge encouraged friends to join him in cycling more than 6,600 kilometres across Canada to raise $10,000 for HIV and AIDS research. Three friends answered the call and the boys spent time in the winter training before heading on their journey this spring.

Fellow Western University students Yanir Levy and Tommy Spriet decided to join Davidge, as well as Neil Schmitke, also from Stony Plain.

A big thing for us or for me individually was just the sense of adventure, so you're going across Canada, we're self-supported so we're taking all our equipment with us, we're camping, it's just a big experience, not a lot of people get to say they do it,” Levy said. “Then you also have the added benefit of doing it for a cause for a charity, just something to make your summer worthwhile.”

The boys spent several days in Portage and one of their reasons for spending so much time here is due to a local connection. Schmitke's grandfather is former Mayor Glen Carlson.

Due to Schmitke's local connections, the group spent three days speaking at various schools and attending events like Foundation Friday.

This is our third presentation of the day just to raise as much awareness as possible and make the teens aware of the kinds of problems there are.”

To donate or for more information, visit www.cycle4canfar.com and follow the boys' journey at @cycle4canfar on Twitter and Instagram.

johnna.ruocco@sunmedia.ca

 

Twitter: @PDGJohnna


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