Reid Duns crossing Canada for the Alzheimer Society

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Reid Duns, a teacher at Ste-Foy Elementary School, is training hard for his 7,500-km cross-Canada bike ride to raise $75,000 for the Alzheimer Society. His departure isn’t until May 2, 2020, but you can help him reach his goal by donating or "buying" a kilometre or more for $10 per kilometre

Reid Duns, a teacher at Ste-Foy Elementary School in Quebec City, is training for his second attempt to ride his bicycle across Canada, this time with the goal of raising $75,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Quebec. He attempted the ride in 2010, but a pinched nerve in his back forced him to stop before completing less than a quarter of the distance.

Now fit and strong, Duns is preparing to leave on the morning of May 4, 2020, from Ste-Foy School. He will be accompanied as far as the Quebec-Lévis ferry terminal by some of his students riding their bicycles to cheer him on his way. His bike will be loaded with camping gear, food and clothes for all types of weather.

A “good ol’ prairie boy from Saskatoon” who moved to Quebec “for love,” Duns has lived in Quebec City since 2003. He started his teaching career at Everest Elementary, then St. Vincent School, and he has been at Ste-Foy Elementary School for six years. He teaches all basic subjects to a Grade 5-6 mixed class.

Duns explained why he was doing this ride. “My family has been touched by Alzheimer’s disease as my wife’s mother suffered from it for years, her grandmother and one aunt and one uncle as well. Knowing that it is partly hereditary, my wife is considerably nervous about it.

“My wife, who is a teacher at Cégep de Sainte-Foy, and I have taken sabbatical leaves in the past. I knew that cycling across Canada would take about three months to do. A teacher’s usual seven-week holiday is fantastic, but not enough to complete this challenge. So, along with our daughter, we are taking deferred leaves of absence, starting in January, travelling in Central America for four months, but will be returning to Quebec City in early May so I can do my trip in May, June and July.”

Duns will start his solo ride by heading east to St. John’s, Newfoundland, including passing through Prince Edward Island to be sure he visits all 10 Canadian provinces. After arriving in St. John’s, he will hop on a plane to British Columbia to continue the second part of his cross-Canada “forget-me-not tour.” By a happy coincidence, he and his wife thought of that name, not knowing that the little blue flower is also the symbol of the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

He has set his goal at $75,000. Travelling 7,500 kilometres from coast to coast, he is encouraging people to donate or “buy” a kilometre or more for $10 per kilometre. Twenty-five per cent of the donations he receives will be invested in services provided to families in the Quebec City area offered by the Société Alzheimer de Québec, while 75 per cent will go toward research on Alzheimer’s disease and related diseases for the benefit of all Canadians.

Duns is partnering with Dr. Robert Laforce, one of the head researchers at the Clinique interdisciplinaire de mémoire du CHU de Québec, the oldest memory clinic in Canada, founded in 1967, where a group of 10 memory specialists are focussing their research on biomarkers and atypical forms of dementia.

According to the Quebec Alzheimer Society, 747,000 Canadians and 125,000 Quebecers suffer from cognitive diseases. In the Quebec City area, 15,000 people are affected with Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that if one person has Alzheimer’s, at least 11 other family members and friends are also affected.

If all goes well and he keeps to his plan to ride an average of 100 kilometres per day (with the occasional day of rest), Duns hopes to arrive back in Quebec City on Aug. 2, 2020, at Performance Bégin (one of his sponsors) in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. Everyone is invited to join him for the last few kilometres by bike to welcome him home.

You can kick-start his ride by making a donation now to help him on his way at societealzheimerdequebec.com/activites/evenements/reid-duns.

“It’s one thing to dream and another to do something like this, but this is already a thousand times bigger than I thought it could be, with the help of the Alzheimer Society. It’s surreal!”