Inspired by Rwanda

“I was right there,” he pointed to a small dark stained bench. “Under my mother, under my father, under my sisters and brothers. No one survived, except me,” he whispered without emotion. That single quiet statement whispered to me by 21-year-old Yves while visiting the Ntarama Church genocide site in Rwanda left an impact on me that has had me pondering my fortunate circumstances every day since 2010.              

“Death doesn’t want me,” was another quiet statement made to me, this time by a young woman who was a new refugee in Calgary, and also a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. She became family. Her name is Denyse Umutoni (aka Rupopo), and she is the reason we chose to ride. She is our inspiration.

The 2017 Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda was a epic event for our family. My sister and I learned about the ride during another cycling event. We were determined to put together a team to participate in this terrific fundraiser. The cause was great, we had a connection with the Rwandan community, and we loved cycling.

We asked our dear friend Denyse if she would allow us to ride ‘for’ her, and we asked if she would like to join us at the event. She enthusiastically embraced our idea and was the driving force behind us. We recruited 12 family members and began training and fundraising. We came from all over the country: Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Kelowna and Penticton–some of us avid riders and others true beginners. We had 4 road cyclists, 5 hybrid bikers, a fixed gear maniac, and 2 super fantastic cheerleaders with us.

The ride started early on a beautiful September morning. We were excited, nervous, and extremely proud to be taking part in this ride. Since it was Canada’s 150th anniversary, some of us wanted to mark it with a personal feat. Others were more competitive, looking to finish each day at the top of the leaderboard. Some of us were just wondering what we had gotten ourselves into!

The bell sounded and off we went. The sound of the pedals turning and the smiles on the faces of the riders was all the motivation necessary. We rode and rode, the scenery and camaraderie making it all worthwhile.

The volunteers and staff did a super job of keeping us organized, supporting us throughout the day and feeding us when we needed it. The encouragement by the volunteers was awesome, and all the flag waving and cheering helped us overcome our fatigue as we pulled into our check stops.

We all made it! Completed 220km in 2 days. We had a ton of fun and are very proud of being part of the 2017 Ride For Rwanda.

Denyse is training hard, taking spin classes every week. She’s hoping to join us again in 2018 but this time as a rider! How is that for inspiration!

This year’s Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda will take place September 15-16 in Vernon, BC. The ride has been shortened to 200km and are looking forward to a fantastic ride! To find out more and to register, go online to: www.lake2lake.org. We hope to see you there!

—Tracey Bitcon

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