Amongst cheers from friends and strangers alike, Brian Nadon and his golden retriever service dog, Ginger-Bella, rode in at the Afghanistan Memorial in Victoria after riding almost 8,000 km.
Nadon was riding for his organization, the Vatic Foundation, which aims to spread PTSD awareness, and fundraise for further education for those suffering from trauma.
For 110 days Nadon and Ginger rode from Charlottetown, P.E.I. to Victoria, B.C.
“Post-traumatic stress affects our first responders and our veterans, but it also affects a lot of other people in various situations,” Nadon said. ” I was also diagnosed with PTSD four years ago so I’ve gone through the path of recovery. For myself, it’s realizing there’s people in the last four years that have helped me, and I wanted to try to make sure I gave back to those individuals as well.”
Nadon first got involved in cycling with the Wounded Warriors in a bike ride through Italy and from there decided he wanted to do this mission. He aimed to fundraise on his journey and brought in a total of just over $15,000, which will go towards a post-secondary scholarship for people suffering from PTSD and trauma-related illnesses.
When asked how it was to have his dog accompany him, he smiled.
“Ginger was the highlight of my night, and the highlight of my morning. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it completely by myself.”
Ginger ran or walked an average of 20 km per day –though one day she walked 40 km– and the rest of the time Nadon pulled her along in a buggy.
Nadon said the journey was not easy, and that early on he had considered giving up but kept riding and then found himself in the next province. He said the heat in Ottawa, the flies in Thunder Bay, the lack of water in Saskatchewan, and loneliness from human contact were the most difficult parts in his journey.
He added that cycling on this journey also helped him learn to better manage his own PTSD.
“Being on the bike gives me something to focus on as far as a goal or accomplishment,” Nadon said. “If you just think about the one hill in front of you, you know there’s gonna be a downhill, so just get to the top and go down, get to the top and go down. That’s kind of how a lot of us live these lives with all these highs and lows, if you know you can get through your low points, you can reach your high points.”
Starting in January, Nadon and Ginger will continue their cycling journey by planning a year-and-a-half long tour through the United States. But for now, Nadon’s next step is to eat a large pizza.
For more information, you can visit vaticfoundation.com.