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Cross-Canada bike ride to feed kids takes off from Victoria

Toronto man embarks on 70-day trip cycling, camping across the nation
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The Terry Fox statue at Mile Zero in Victoria is a popular start destination for those embarking on cross-Canada treks.

Eric Paton is pretty confident in his capability to traverse the nation on bike this summer, despite not starting the sport until post-retirement earlier this year.

The Toronto man was determined when he retired form the workforce in January that he wouldn’t retire from life in general. With a gentle nudge from his wife, while preparing for retirement, Paton wrote a plan for 2024 and 2025.

It started with three months in trade school learning skills to use later down the road in a volunteer capacity with agencies such as Habitat for Humanity.

Cycling was also on the list.

“I’m not a bike rider, or I was not a bike rider then, but I thought ‘that’s something I could do’,” Paton said.

In anticipation, he got a bike in late 2023 and set it up on a trainer in the basement.

Went to Spain for a bit, since learning Spanish was on the list, and when he returned, joined a cycling club. Now daily rides having him feeling ready to roll.

Inspired by a few groups on social media, he looked around for a group to cross the continent with. A plan with both a Canadian group and an American group fell through and he thought maybe solo was the way to go.

A social guy he figures he’ll make friends camping each night and at food banks he visits along the way.

In his quest to “pedal for purpose” he connected with Food Banks Canada and aims to raise $100,000 for the agency’s After the Bell program.

When schools wind down for the summer, it can spell the end of a healthy season for students who rely on breakfast programs and hot lunches for their daily nourishment.

Paton once met a principal who – in the absence of programs – kept bread and sandwich meat on hand for just such occasions. As a parent himself it was an eye-opening and heartbreaking thing to think about.

“There are so many kids. You don’t know, you don’t know their story and they’re going to school hungry,” he said. “I’m just a guy who is retired and think maybe I could do a little bit to help.”

He aims to raise $100,000 for the program with the cross-Canada trek.

Setting off on the first full day of summer from Victoria, Paton plans to land in St. John’s Nfld. with a couple weeks left in summer – to hang out with his kids before they head back to class.

Paton is set to leave Victoria early Friday (June 21) morning and head for the Swartz Bay ferry in North Saanich. Follow the trip or donate online at foodbankscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/bikecanada. Learn more about his philosophy on “retiring from the workforce” on Instagram @whatsnxt4eric.