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Victoria man raises funds, awareness of Parkinson’s on 200-km bike ride

Alf Todd talks about how tough Highway 4 ‘Hump’ is, and the importance of cycling

A year ago, Colwood cyclist Alf Todd, who lives with Parkinson’s Disease, said he would never do another fundraising bike ride from Victoria to Port Alberni.

Last Tuesday, Aug. 11, Todd, 69, and three other cyclists arrived in Port Alberni after a 200-kilometre trip—fundraising again for Parkinson’s Disease.

“I lied,” an exhausted Todd said with a grin on his face as he set his bicycle against a retaining wall at Victoria Quay.

READ: Alf Todd on a mission to fight Parkinson’s Disease

The 69-year-old, who has lived with Parkinson’s Disease for 13 years, left the Brentwood Bay ferry terminal Tuesday morning with daughter Cindy Todd, oldest grandson Bret Schuuman and cousin David Peters. Cowichan Bay Parkinson’s support group facilitator Wendy Murray rode with the team for an hour, and Andy Robinson, president of HeadWay Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre rode with them almost into Nanaimo.

The team was on the road to raise funds for HeadWay, Victoria’s Parkinson’s Centre, because “the need was there and the finances weren’t,” Alf Todd said.

The ride went smoothly, Todd said, until they hit the “Hump”—the infamous Alberni Summit on Highway 4, between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni.

“Doing the Hump, even if you’re doing it fresh it’s difficult. Doing it after already 170 kilometres, it was very hard. I fell twice. I just couldn’t go anymore. It’s not an easy ride. At 69 years old I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to do it.

“I’m thankful to the Lord that we were safe and had no problems.”

Riding into Port Alberni is special for Todd, so there was no question he would tackle the Hump again with this year’s ride. “Port Alberni has a bit of a special touch for me because our daughter and son-in-law have a place on Sproat Lake. We’ve come here for many years. It’s a great destination.”

Todd said he wouldn’t call himself a diehard cyclist, even though he has made four trips from Victoria to San Francisco—one of them as a fundraiser after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He does say that cycling can be a lifeline for people living with the disease.

“Cycling is very important to Parkinson’s. There’s many times during the day that I can barely walk, and I use my bike as a walker to get out of the garage,” he said. “Once I put my leg over the bar, I don’t have Parkinson’s.

“The message I try to get out to people who have Parkinson’s is stay active. Stay positive—it’s huge, having a positive attitude. And help other people. When you’re helping others, you do better physically.”

Todd and his entourage were met by family members who drove to Port Alberni, as well as members of Port Alberni’s Parkinson’s support group. Janice Charlesworth, whose husband has Parkinson’s, said she and Linda Nicklin helped form the support group two and a half years ago. Todd, whose family lives near Nicklin’s at the lake, has been a help, said Charlesworth.

Seeing Todd ride his bike down Johnston Road and into Victoria Quay was meaningful, she added—“that all things are possible. It’s inspirational.”

The support group comprises 10 or 15 members and some spouses. They have worked with Alberni Fitness to set up a boxing program, and although they cannot box right now, the gym is encouraging members to come and ride the stationary bicycles.

Anyone in Port Alberni looking for more information on Parkinson’s Disease resources or the support group can call Janice Charlesworth at 250-723-8230 or Linda Nicklin at 250-723-3755.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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