John Ryan embarked on his Regeneration Tour from Cape Spear, Newfoundland May 1, 1999, the British Columbia border was 112 days and more than 7,000 kilometres away along the Trans Canada Highway. But Friday, Aug. 20 he was back in his home province.
Ryan, 38, set out on the 134-day, 8,688 kilometre (5,400 mile) journey to raise funds and awareness for spinal cord regeneration research. The Whistler realtor was left paralyzed by 1994 car accident.
He is hand-cycling a specially-designed, three-wheeled cycle, averaging speeds of 16 km/h, with a daily target distance of 100 kilometres. A persistent pressure sore which developed in early July has necessitated an adjustment to his wheeling schedule to accommodate additional breaks.
More than $800,000 in cash and in-kind donations have been raised to date. Funds raised from the Regeneration Tour will go towards research into spinal cord regeneration and minimizing permanent spinal cord damage at the time of injury.
Ryan plans to complete his cross-Canada journey on Sept. 11, when he will arrive in Whistler.
Challenges along the way have included snow storms in Newfoundland, a heat wave, bugs and lightning storms in Northern Ontario, and head winds gusting up to 50 km-h on the Prairies. His next hurdle will be B.C.’s mountainous terrain. The final 100 kilometres will be the most formidable as he will be faced with an elevation gain of 675 metres on the narrow, winding Sea to Sky Highway.
The Regeneration Tour is not John Ryan’s first challenge or journey. Ryan was a successful Realtor in Whistler when a car accident in 1994 left him paralyzed and in wheelchair. Every year 41,000 Canadians suffer serious spinal cord and brain injuries–35 per cent of them from motor vehicle accidents.
Still, he considers himself fortunate. "I’m lucky to have the use of my hands, arms, and upper body." Ryan was able to return to his profession and was soon earning accolades as one of Canada’s top Realtors. "As I regained my strength and resumed my career I vowed to do something for those who were injured more severely than I was. I met a man a few days ago who says he just wants to be able to feed himself–those are the people who were my inspiration for doing this."
According to Dr. John Steeves, professor and director of spinal cord research at the University of British Columbia, the solution to spinal cord regeneration is just around the corner. "Although the discovery of essential therapeutic solutions are on the horizon it is going to require dedicated perseverance, scientific collaboration and funds."
Support for John’s tour has come in many forms–from corporations like Intrawest and Eddie Bauer, Realtors and Real Estate Boards, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Service Clubs and Town Councils across the country, the town of Whistler–which has banded together with many fundraising efforts, even before John's departure–to someone who knows what it is like to have his life change in a heartbeat. Christopher Reeve, President of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation has sent the following words of encouragement to John. "John’s remarkable journey will give hope to thousands of spinal cord injured Canadians that a cure for paralysis is within reach if enough resources can be dedicated to achieve this important goal. John’s determination and passion are an inspiration to us all and I thank him."
Whistler will continue its support as they welcome John Ryan with a homecoming celebration when he rolls into town on September 11. Many of the resort community’s 7,000 residents are expected to turn out to escort John on the last few kilometres of his trip.
John’s efforts to raise awareness and funds for spinal regeneration research will not end when he reaches the end of his journey. As for life post-Tour, Ryan will resume his real estate career and will continue school speaking engagements. He and his wife Penny also plan to start a family. "I hope in the near future to be able to tell school children that people with spinal cord injuries will no longer have to spend their lives in a wheelchair. I would be extremely proud to tell my children that I played a very small part in making that a reality."
Donations to the John Ryan Regeneration Tour can be made at the Royal Bank across Canada, at Eddie Bauer stores, by telephone at 1-800-570-3222, or on the Regeneration Tour Internet web site: www.regenerationtour.org. Regeneration Tour merchandise can be purchased at Eddie Bauer Stores, with proceeds from the sales donated to the Tour.
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Notes For Radio: Regular Regeneration Tour updates are distributed Friday mornings at 9:30 am PDT on BN Channels 3 and 4. These are : 60 self-contained updates, with intro and extro and contain actualities from John Ryan, with reports on upcoming activities and stops. Regeneration Tour PSAs have also been distributed.
JOHN RYAN REGENERATION TOUR
August 20 Cross B.C. / Alberta border
21 B.C. Border to Golden
22 Rest Day - Panorama Resort, Invermere
23 Golden to Rogers Pass
24 Rogers Pass to Three Valley Gap (via Revelstoke)
25 Three Valley Gap to Enderby (via Sicamous)
26 Enderby to Kelowna (via Armstrong, Vernon & Winfield)
27 Rest Day in Kelowna
28 Kelowna to Penticton (via Westbank, Peachland & Summerland)
29 Pentiction to Keremeos (via Kaledon, Okanagan Falls, Oliver & Osoyoos)
30 Rest Day - Osoyoos
31 Keremeos to Manning Park
September 1 Manning Park to Hope
2 Hope to Abbotsford
3 Abbotsford to Surrey (Guilford Welcome Party 11:00 am)
4&5 Rest Days - Vancouver
6 Surrey to Victoria
7 Victoria to Ladysmith (via Duncan, Chemainus)
8 Ladysmith to Tsawwassen/Vancouver
9 Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay
10 Horseshoe Bay to Squamish
11 Squamish to Whistler (Whistler Homecoming Party)