Hughes’ Big Ride tour coming to Amherst

Darrell Cole
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Olympic medalist to speak at Spring Street Academy

Olympic medalist Clara Hughes' Big Ride is coming to Amherst on April 14.

Spring Street Academy teacher Daren White looks over the website for Clara Hughes’ Big Ride. The six-time Olympic medalist is coming to a Amherst on April 14 for a quick stop on our tour across the Atlantic region. She’ll make a quick stop at Spring Street Academy before biking to Truro.

AMHERST – Clara Hughes is coming to Amherst.

The Olympic medalist is bringing her Clara’s Big Ride tour to Spring Street Academy after being contacted by teacher and longtime cancer crusader Daren White.

“When I contacted them several months ago I told them I wanted her to come to our school because the students and staff had been through a lot with my cancer returning and then with what happened to Mr. Kelly,” White said. “It’s been a rough couple of years for the school and I thought by bringing her here it would help with the healing and get students and staff to talk about their feelings. We went through a real tough time mentally.”

While he was told Hughes would not be able to visit the school, he was recently contacted and told that she would be here on April 14.

After speaking to students, Hughes will get on her bike in front of Spring Street Academy and pedal to Church Street, turning left and proceeding up the hill to Robert Angus Drive, from where she will mover over to South Albion Street and get on the Trans-Canada Highway.

The tour was not originally scheduled to be in Amherst. As was the case with the torch relay and the Rick Hansen tour, the original schedule had Hughes travelling from Moncton to the Confederation Bridge and onto Prince Edward Island before taking the ferry from Wood Islands, P.E.I. to Caribou to pick up the Nova Scotia leg of the cross-county tour.

White said ice conditions in the Northumberland Strait have forced organizers to change the route a little bit and that after Hughes completes the P.E.I. leg of the tour she will backtrack to Amherst to meet the students at the school and then bike to Truro to resume her tour.

“We’re encouraging the other schools and anyone who wants to see her to line Church Street up to Robert Angus Drive,” White said.

White, who fought and beat cancer twice, participated in the torch relay leading up to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, but he had to go to East Hants to carry the torch. The torch that came to Amherst was not part of the official relay.

He also had to go to Halifax to participate in the Rick Hansen tour and the more he thought of it the more he thought about how Amherst was always being bypassed and how he missed Terry Fox when he came through the area 30 years ago on his Marathon of Hope.

“When Terry Fox came through town in 1981 I missed it and it always bothered me. He was a hero to me after,” White said. “When the torch came through I was disappointed I had to go to Halifax. I felt I had to bring her to Amherst because we are always being bypassed.”

Since telling staff and students that Hughes is coming to the school, White said there has been a growing sense of excitement as well as more awareness of mental health issues. He said efforts are underway to bring mental health programming into the school.

“It has started a conversation about something that people don’t talk about,” White said. “It’s like when you start talking about cancer and others say how they have been affected. There are a lot of people out there facing mental health challenges, but it’s not something people talk about. We’re trying to change attitudes when it comes to mental health issues. We need to talk about it.”

Hughes, who has battled mental health issues herself, is a six-time Olympic speed-skating and cycling medalist and the national spokeswoman for Bell Let’s Talk. Her Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk began March 14 in Toronto and will continue until Canada Day when she arrives in Ottawa.

She will cover 12,000 kilometres and visit 95 communities along the way, raising awareness, acceptance and action to create a stigma-free Canada.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Big Ride, Street Academy, Trans-Canada Highway Bell

Geographic location: Amherst, Prince Edward Island, Church Street Halifax South Albion Street Moncton Wood Islands Nova Scotia East Hants Toronto Ottawa Canada

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