While most Canadians hid from the unforgiving January cold, Jan LaPierre and Chris Surette threw on a few extra layers, grabbed their bicycles, and braved the frigid temperatures of Burlington, Ontario. Over the next two weeks, the Nova Scotian duo — along with friends Mark and Brent Hubner from Baffin Footwear and Apparel — pedaled the 530-mile (850-kilometer) circumference of Lake Ontario.
Come winter, what makes this area of North America unique is something locals call the “Lake Effect.” It’s well-documented that the towns and cities huddled around the lake’s eastern shorelines — between Rochester, New York, and Kingston, Ontario — receive more snow than almost anywhere else on the continent. As the snowy winds swoop down from Northern Ontario and begin moving west-to-east, they pick up incredible speed over the water, covering everything in their path in a wintry coat.
For two straight weeks, it snowed. For two straight weeks, the quartet battled through constant gusting winds and smothering snow squalls, everything around them white as they searched for ways to keep the mood light.
Wondering why anyone would volunteer to live outside, in the heart of the Canadian winter, let alone bike through it for 14 days? Well, expeditions like this are the essence of what Jan and Chris live for — enduring temporary pain for a greater good, for something much bigger than some chapped lips or frozen fingertips.
You see, this journey wasn’t taken to prove how tough they are, or to even generate revenue for their business, A for Adventure. Instead, the ride raised nearly $35,000 CAD for Amici, an Ontario-based charity that sends underprivileged kids to summer camp.
The genesis of A for Adventure was conceived back in the summer of 2013, when Jan had the idea for “Paddle to Sable.” The plan, which would raise money to send children dealing with chronic and mental health issues to Brigadoon Village, was a kayak trip. But not just any kayak trip.
Starting off the coast of Canso, Nova Scotia, Jan and his friend Graham Carter would set off toward Sable Island — a 124-mile (200-kilometer) adventure through some of the North Atlantic’s most treacherous waters. The island is often referred to as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” as close to 350 vessels have fell victim to the area’s foggy sandbars and unforgiving currents. After 30 hours, aided by a support-boat captained by Chuck Boudreau and son Tyler (which Chris was on board), Jan and Graham became the first people to ever paddle to the island.
Building off this project that garnered widespread media attention, the tandem continued to find ways to give back to local communities. This included partnering with Parks Canada, where they’ve taken refugees on canoe trips and taught kids camping skills on Parliament Hill, all of which took time out of their already-busy schedule.
When asked about their knack for handing over time and energy for a good cause, they both agree that it comes down to generosity — it’s about trying to give as much as they possibly can. Because, as Jan puts it, “getting a sore ass for two weeks” is worth it when the temporary pain creates positive change in the lives of others.
It’s here where their intentions becomes even clearer: “We’re not always busy. We all have time to give, and giving is exponential.”
Giving grows into something larger than the hour taken out of your Saturday, and it permeates with force. It engineers change and leaves a lasting effect, long after we’re gone.
So, A for Adventure challenges you to ask yourself, what do you have to give?