Wounded Warriors Canada provides a range of clinically facilitated mental health programs specifically developed to support the unique needs of veterans, first responders and their families.
Courtenay resident Alex Kennedy is a fairly new supporter of the cause since last year, when he raised money to participate in a cycling tour in northern France to Vimy Ridge, Canada’s monumental memorial to those lost in battle during the First World War.
Being from a military family, Wounded Warriors is an organization close to Kennedy’s heart. On Oct. 23, 1969, his father Allan was badly burned in an explosion aboard the HMCS Kootenay. The resulting fire and loss of life is still regarded as Canada’s worst military disaster during peace time. The young naval officer survived, but took years to recover while Kennedy was growing up.
“It’s one of those things I slowly became involved in after my wife Bev passed away almost five years ago. Inspired by my father, and in memory of local soldiers Mark Isfeld and Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, she participated in a similar Battlefield Bike Ride in France in 2017. For her, it was an amazing experience and we were able to give back to the military community. It is through this community that I recently met the key organizers of the annual ride,” he said. “I’ve been passionate about cycling all my life, and now I’ve taken the torch from Bev and will continue her work. I’ve learned a lot about Canada’s wartime history as well as its recent history too.”
Kennedy has also contributed to the Wounded Warrior Run BC, a seven-day event held as a fundraising running relay from Port Hardy to Victoria every winter.
From June 11-14, 2023, Kennedy, with a group of 100 people from across Canada, will cycle in Italy from Ortona to Ravenna, along the routes where Canadians saw the most intense fighting in the Italian campaign of 1943. The Battlefield Ride will honour the fallen in a chapter of Canadian Second World War history that has become known as the Italian Stalingrad.
“My answer as to why I’m riding is that I’d like to continue Bev’s work,” said Kennedy. “I’m doing it as a challenge to myself and I’m also advocating as a member in a military family affected by a serious injury. I ride to show other people that you can do things even if you’ve had challenges at any time in your life.”
Kennedy also raises money annually by cycling for the Bev Skwernuik Memorial Bursary, which is awarded to high school graduates for post-secondary education, in memory of his late wife.
The Comox Valley School District selects winners based on criteria based on overcoming adversity.
In addition to being able to give back to the military community, Kennedy is also looking forward to visiting Italian manufacturers of bicycles and eyeglasses – two of his favourite things.
Each participant in the Ortona Battlefield Bike Ride must raise $5,000 in order to participate for a total fundraising goal of $500,000 between all participants.
While honouring Canadian soldiers’ service and sacrifice during the Second World War, the money raised will help support the mental health programs offered by Wounded Warriors Canada.
To donate to Kennedy’s ride, visit https://bit.ly/3SC5FuB or go to www.bbr23.ca to learn more about the registered charity and the programs offered.