By Tatiana Patterson
Alexander Waddling and Danny “Red” Surjanac mounted their bikes last May and rode to British Columbia in a campaign to raise awareness about violence against women.
The numbers tell the story. According to Statistics Canada, more than 2,500 women between the ages of 15 and 24 reported violent incidents to police in 2011.
LISTEN: Cyclist Alexander Waddling discusses the need to raise awareness
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This year, the pair has added another two members to their team and are planning another ride – this time to St. John’s.
“I saw how well the message was received last year,” said Waddling, Executive Director of Ride for a Dream, a non-profit campaign that speaks out against gender-based violence. “But I knew there was so much more potential.”
Waddling and Surjanac travelled almost 5,000 kilometres on their trip in 2012 and raised approximately $3,000 for the White Ribbon Campaign – an initiative by men to engage other men to end violence towards women.
But he thought it was time to start out on his own.
“I didn’t see a lot of engagement with younger men,” said Waddling. “I wanted to take the message on the road and build up more of a national community with it. I figured ‘Why not take my love for cycling and pair it with my love for White Ribbon?’”
Waddling said a lot of men aren’t given the tools to talk about violence against women. He thinks a big part of the problem is that men don’t have good role models.
“It’s being able to talk to guys frankly and honestly about it, and engaging people through the media,” said Waddling. “The cycling itself is just a means to get peoples’ attention and to carry the message from province to province.”
This year, two Humber students in the media communications program are lending a helping hand in spreading the awareness.
Graham Scott and Myles Aimer are helping Ride for a Dream organize a benefit concert to raise donations for the Schlifer Clinic in Toronto.
In a press release by Humber Today, Aimer said that spreading the message about ending gender-based violence is very important.
“Violence against women is an ongoing issue,” he said. “It goes un- or under- reported in the media, which is something we aim to change. I believe in gender equality, so to take part in raising awareness is rewarding to me.”
The benefit concert, entitled Rock for a Dream, will feature up-and-coming indie bands including headliners Silvergun and Spleen. The event will be held at The Horseshoe Tavern on April 17.
Meanwhile, the Ride for a Dream campaign will open their online donations this June when the four cyclists, including Waddling, hit the road for Newfoundland.