Bikers on South Vancouver Island are putting the pedal to the metal and raising money for homeless veterans, proving that a little help can go a long way.
On Saturday, Aug. 6, the inaugural motorcycle ride called Vancouver Island Run for Homeless Vets took place with hundreds of participants in attendance.
The convoy of 192 bikes left the OK Tire in Duncan at around 9 a.m. and travelled down the Malahat, cruising into Langford’s Legion Branch 91 to end the feat.
Organizer Thea Squire came up with the idea after participating in a few other rides for causes over the years. But for her, this one was the most personal yet.
“I have a lot of friends that are military…” Squire told CHEK News, noting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects those she knows quite well.
“They suffer from PTSD. I’m aware of it myself, and it’s just a cause that’s really, really close to my heart. I’m that type of person… I gotta help.”
According to Squire, all funds from the ride will go toward the Cockrell House in Colwood and a portion to Homes For Heroes — the latter building villages across Canada to end homelessness among vets.
Meanwhile, Cockrell House has provided safe transitional housing and social services to ex-military personnel for nearly 13 years while helping them integrate back into society.
The volunteer-run house, funded solely through donations and the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command, has assisted countless vets through the years, including Mark Lockhart’s friend, John.
“I didn’t know he was homeless when I met him,” said Lockhart, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, in an interview with CHEK News.
“I thought he was a great guy, full of laughs. He was homeless and the Cockrell House was helping him. He had nowhere to go, he didn’t have a place to sleep. He was sleeping on the side of the road,” he added.
“And now he’s got a home, he’s met a wonderful lady and has gotten married… it’s the stories like these that touch all of us, and it’s all we can do is look at it and go, you know what, we can do something, so we’re going to do something.”
Cowichan-Malahat-Langford MP Alistair MacGregor echoes Lockhart, saying he feels veterans faced with homelessness is an ongoing issue impacting many people.
“We have to put the resources to finally fix [it], and if I can show up as a local MP and a rider to support it, it’s a great cause,” added MacGregor.
Organizers say the ride will be an annual event and hope donations collected can help Cockrell House open up a second transitional house.