The final day of the ride was here, and with it was all the anticipation and excitement (and a little bit of anxiety) about what the day would bring.
The night was again a sleepless affair due to our darling daughter's antics, and not at all due to the excellent hospitality we had at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Kanata. It was the perfect set up for our family, but Isla's routine was so out of whack that there's no way she was going to give us a night without her presence. That aside, we were up bright and early to meet the staff of the hotel in the lobby. They had a surprise for us and we were excited to see what it was.
Everybody gathered together, and we all went outside to check out the bike and the car and to chat about how the past week had gone down. The staff then presented us with a pouch filled with cash they'd raised through a. bake sale / BBQ fundraiser - a massive $1300!! I seriously want to get the lowdown on how they made such a huge amount of money... there must be an pretty epic baker in their midst! To have such immense support from a business is truly unbelievable, and it gives our family an incredible boost to have our efforts recognized in this way. It's nice to know that our story is touching people, and whether it's a $5 donation on the side of the road, or a huge contribution like this, every single person who reaches out to help is making a difference - to our cause and our spirits.
After checking out of the hotel, we made our way to the University of Ottawa. The Faculty of Medicine, specifically the Centre for Neuromuscular Disease, had organized a reception to welcome us to the city and to make a presentation about the research activity in their department, and the advances they are making in the field of clinical trials which will help to speed up the process for patients who need faster access to treatments - a need we are keenly aware of. Andrew made a speech to the gathering of people, which I think hit the mark in terms of what our role was - to give a face, and the experience of a family, to the researchers who beaver away in the lab but who have no direct contact with the patients who benefit from their work. He said that on the ride, about 50 kms outside of Kingston, he saw a young boy riding a BMX bike. This simple thing is something he himself had done when he was a boy, but something that Max doesn't know the pleasure of doing because of Duchenne. For us, the ride is about trying to give Max the opportunity to have normal childhood experiences that this disease is already robbing him of, and it's the scientists and researchers who give us the hope that it might one day happen.
The people we chatted to after the presentations were sincere when they said they are doing their absolute best to find the answer, and their frustration at how slow the scientific process is was also very real. I told them that it's wonderful for us to be able to tell Max that there are some very smart scientists who are working every day to find a way to fix his weak muscles, and after speaking to the staff at uOttawa, I feel reassured that I'm not just making this up as a way to make Max feel optimistic about his future. We all want the same thing.
At 11 am it was time to get back on the bike for the final 7 km ride to Parliament Hill. We pulled Max away from the terrific fun he was having on the auditorium microphone and in the lab with a group of students who helped him to do some real scientific experiments whilst wearing his real lab coat, glasses and gloves (possibly the most fun he'd had over the last 9 days). It was about 30 degrees and very humid, so we were all happy the 600 km journey was just a short distance away from its completion point.
Grandma, Grandpa and I took an Uber to the Hill, while Andrew, Max and of course Isla rode into the city. When we got there, the three of us walked up the Hill greet them at the steps of Parliament House, and on the way I spotted Andrew and the kids on the bike in the distance, waiting just around the corner so he could ride in right at noon. It was an emotional sight for me. The long ride had just about come to an end. Not just 600 kms, but 1800 kms over three years - a distance that represents a huge commitment for not just Andrew who powers the bike, but for our whole family. We don't get paid for the time we're away on the ride, we cover all expenses along the way ourselves (with a LOT of help from Grandma and Grandpa), and much of our spare time and energy is consumed thinking of ways to make the ride a success and in carrying out those ideas. It's a labour of love, but it's labour no less, and nobody bears the burden of this more than my husband who is the driving force behind it all, and upon whose shoulders the success of the ride ultimately rests. It's a huge undertaking and I hope he knows how proud of him we all are. And there in the bike, looking excited and small and cute and nervous in his bright yellow t-shirt was my Max. He was peeking out from under the sunshade, and who knows what was going through his little mind while they waited there for the grand finale of this years ride, but I think he is just starting to understand that it's all for him and for his weak muscles, and I'm pretty sure that at this point he's happy it's all happening.
At 12 o'clock sharp, the cargo bike came into view at the top of the hill. A group of Andrew's colleagues, who were in Ottawa for a conference, had gathered in their MBR t-shirts with a huge welcome sign, along with a group of MPs organized by the ever-supportive Karina Gould, and some family friends, and everybody began the now familiar chant of "go Max go!" as they pulled up to the finish line. Another ride was over!
After some interviews with the media, and congratulatory chats with friends and Members of Parliament, we retreated to the shade where the kids could play on the relatively cool grass and Andrew could finally take a breather and begin to take stock of how MBR 2017 had gone down. On the last day of the ride our fundraising total had reached about $25,000 - a massive achievement in our third year and something that we all feel very proud of.
At the end of the day I asked Max how he felt as the bike reached the finished line. He told me he felt happy, and a little bit embarrassed at the 'go Max go' chant, but his smile told me that he'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, he wants to do it 11 more times - a figure he'd upped from nine more times from the previous day. Who knows how many more there'll be, but I'm pretty sure we'll see you again in 2018...