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Friends for Life cycle through the County in pursuit of care for People with AIDSs

As long as there’s a reason, hundreds of cyclists and crew will ride with Friends for Life.

On day two of the six-day 600km ride from Toronto to Montreal, some 200 cyclists made their way through Prince Edward County raising funds for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA).

“We are the sustaining fundraiser for the foundation and are expecting it to be a record-breaking year,” said Zachary Zulauf, marketing assistant with the foundation, during a stop at the Glenora Ferry. “Without us, they cannot provide critical, life-saving and enriching care for more than 2,900 people living with HIV/AIDS every year.”

A group of Friends for Life riders makes its way to the Glenora Ferry. – Janet Elson photo

The Friends For Life Bike Rally raises more than $1 million annually for Toronto PWA. Participants chose between three adventures: a 600 km, six-day ride from Toronto to Montréal; a 300 km, three-day ride from Kingston to Montréal, or a 100 km, one-day ride from Toronto to Port Hope.

“I started as a rider last year and fell in love, so I started volunteering for the foundation and then a position lined up that was aligned with my skills so I applied, and was hired, and here we are,” said Zulauf.

Zachary Zulauf

The Friends left Toronto Sunday with about 230 riders, 100 crew members and a fundraising goal of $1.4 million as they cycle the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence to arrive in Montreal Friday for a celebration marking the event’s 20th year.

Zulauf said they cycle about 100km each day, camping every evening, except for one night in Kingston. The Rustler Crew moves the cyclists’ tents and belongings from campsite to campsite; the Food Crew whips up three meals and snacks each day; the Wellness Crew provides physical care and the Road Support Crew marks the route and helps keep riders safe, and on track.

 At the Glenora Ferry stop Monday, they were greeted by Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson, and councillors Mike Harper, Bill McMahon and Kate McNaughton, who hosted a water fill up station with help from Picton Home Hardware’s Jeff Holler, himself a three-time participant in the ride. – Sue Capon photo

The rally began in 1999 as an emergency response by two Toronto friends, for their friends, and remains a grassroots, volunteer-driven fundraiser. It has raised more than $16 million for the foundation over the past two decades.

PWA is the largest direct support service provider for people living with HIV/AIDS in Canada, providing meal and food programs, treatment access support, alternative therapy programs, educational programs, and financial assistance. PWA’s Community Access programs also connect people to community services such as government income programs, counselling, employment, housing, legal, and medical services.

““The more time I spend involved with the Bike Rally, the more I realize what a remarkable and unique fundraiser it is,” said Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, chair of the rally. “Not only is it the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, vital to the services they provide clients, it is a sustaining force for the people in the community it creates.

“The Bike Rally changes lives – those of the clients who use the services it funds, and those of the participants. I see it as an opportunity for regular people to create dramatic, relevant, and almost immediate change.”

A group of the Friends starts boarding the ferry for the final leg of the day two journey. – Sue Capon photo

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