A Riders' Story
Story contributed by Luis Vieira, a Ride for Sight High Miler.
In 2002 I was asked by a group of friends if I would like to do a ride to Collingwood, Ontario. I had no idea what to expect or what the ride was all about but as a fairly new rider, I thought it would be an amazing experience. We rode to the International Centre and I was blown away by the amount of motorcycles in the parking lot.
“START YOUR ENGINES!” and I was hooked.
Away we went to Collingwood in a massive group. People were lined up on the side of the road holding signs that read “Thank you.” People were honking their horns and waving as we all went by and we had a police escort all the way which made for an exhilarating experience. My wife and small children, at the time, surprised me by showing up on the side of the road cheering me on my way. I was overwhelmed.
We spent the weekend watching amazingly talented bands play and having a great time meeting some awesome people. When I got home I called my buddy to better understand what the event was about. “Ride for Sight” he told me and I said to myself what a great cause …THE GIFT OF SIGHT.
I started doing this ride in 2002 and have only missed it twice since then. While I’m not directly touched by retinal disease, I have a few friends with family members living with vision loss and their stories inspire and motivate me daily.
I don’t strive to be a High Miler, but the people that I have met and the stories that they’ve told, drive me to support the cause. I have introduced this event to many of my friends and after their first Ride for Sight they have all the encouragement they need to keep coming back.
My belief in Ride for Sight and the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) means I am always trying to find ways to offer my support. So, on special occasions, like birthdays, etc, I ask my friends and family to donate to The FFB instead of giving me gifts. I have all that I need and their support can go so much further to advance vision research and restore hope and sight. I couldn’t imagine losing my vision and knowing that I can play a role, even a small one, in giving someone else the gift of sight, is priceless and makes it all worth it to me.
Ride for Sight is a one-of-a-kind event. There is no other like it. Try it once and you’ll be hooked for life. Thank you to everyone who has not only donated to the cause, but also to the people that help make it all possible.
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Luis & Sandra Vieira and their Brampton Crew
In 2012, at a meeting of their local HOG (Harley Owner’s Group) Chapter, Dave Ostrowski-Gallant and his wife Nicole were approached by a friend about taking part in Ride for Sight Northern Ontario.
At the time, Dave and Nicole knew very little about the many diseases associated with vision loss. Soon after, they were introduced to Mac Marcoux, now a 2014 Paralympics Gold Medalist, who lives with Stargardt’s disease – a form of childhood blindness that causes the loss of central vision.
As they learned more about Mac’s condition and the many other degenerative eye diseases that affect over one million Canadians, they became eager to help out. “We could only imagine the debilitating ways in which our own lives would be changed if our vision were lost,” said Dave. This was when Dave and Nicole began their journey with Ride for Sight.
In their first year, Dave and Nicole volunteered on the event’s organizing committee and helped to plan an amazing inaugural Ride for Sight in Northern Ontario at the Roberta Bondar Pavilion in Sault Ste. Marie. The following year, Dave joined on as Committee Chair and lead the planning of Ride for Sight 2013 hosted at Searchmont Ski Resort.
During the 2013 event, Dave and Nicole had a chance encounter with Tanya Boissoneau and Paul Syrette, the parents of Carter Syrette, a 4 year old boy from Garden River First Nation who lives with Familial Exudative Vitreor Retinopathy (FEVR) – a very rare disease that left him completely blind. The couples became close friends over the last couple years, and Carter and his family became the driving force and inspiration for the Northern Ontario Ride for Sight. The family is now an intricate part of the planning committee and helped make the 2014 event a huge success.
Every year, Dave and Nicole have seen the Northern Ontario Ride for Sight grow and thrive and the positive feedback has been overwhelming. In 2015 they will continue to work toward growing the event. “It is more work than we had ever imagined but the rewards outweigh it all,” says Dave. “We have met great people, made close, life-lasting friendships and have had a blast every year once everything all comes together. We see how we can make a change in people’s lives and hopefully find a cure for these diseases. We just can’t emphasize enough how much we look forward to growing Ride for Sight Northern Ontario, and to raising even more money for a great organization like the Foundation Fighting Blindness.”