Ryan readies for ride across country By Amy Fendley This Saturday, April 24, at 8:45 a.m., John Ryan will depart Vancouver International Airport en route to the start of his 8,688 kilometre hand-pedal powered journey across Canada. An effort to raise $5 million for spinal cord regeneration research. Ryan, 37, is an accomplished Whistler realtor. In November of 1994 he became a paraplegic in a car accident. "Life has been very good to me both personally and financially, despite being confined to a wheelchair, and now it’s time to give something back," says Ryan. "I really want to make a difference and if I can touch one person or change one life, then I will have been successful." The vision for the Regeneration Tour is to raise enough money to give Canadian spinal cord regeneration research an injection of critical capital, thus leading to the effective treatment and ultimately a cure for spinal cord injury and paralysis. Current spinal cord research is on the verge of testing spinal column nerve fibre regeneration on humans, which could actually return feeling and mobility back to those with spinal cord damage. Canadian medical teams have recently made many advances in spinal cord research, however, many members move on to countries with greater funds. This not only jeopardizes the prospect of future breakthroughs, but it puts years of research at risk. Ryan will set out from Cape Spear, Newfoundland on May 1, riding his three-wheel Freedom Ryder at an average of 96 kilometres a day. He plans to make it back home to Whistler by the second week of September. "I’m feeling physically ready to go," says Ryan, who has been training on the West Side Road, and riding from Millar’s Pond to D’Arcy and back in five hours. "It’s coming back that’s the problem." Ryan says he’s looking forward to visiting St. John’s, as a group of local realtors he has never met has set up a Regeneration Tour committee for him. "I’m looking forward to meeting them, they’re really special people," he says. "I’m excited, and just really looking forward to starting. I’m actually looking forward to getting back to Whistler... I’m going to miss Whistler in the summer, it’s my favourite time of year." For the past year, Ryan has volunteered his time to speak to school children in B.C. as part of The Role Model Resource program organized by the Rick Hansen Institute. An educational aspect of his tour will be provided interactively through On the Road, a web site designed to follow the tour. "At any given time the tour will be accessible, especially to school kids following it in class," says Ryan. "It will also make donations easier because you can donate right on the Internet." He says he will have headphones and will spend an hour a day talking to the public, especially students, and media. Ryan has been busy establishing corporate sponsorship and financial and volunteer support for the administration and execution of the tour, working with businesses and special interest organizations across Canada to conduct fund raising events. The Whistler community is helping to support Ryan’s ride home. The recent Whistler Town Party raised $18,500 in donations for the tour. However, there is still a need for volunteers. The Regeneration Tour Office is located in the Market Pavilion. Interested volunteers can sign up at that location, or call Ann Yauniskis at 905-6911. Visit www.Regeneration Tour.org. to follow Ryan’s progress as he crosses Canada.