The road to Thunder Bay from southern Ontario is one of the most beautiful rides in the country. In autumn it’s one of the most visually pleasing displays Mother Nature can conjure up. The slate-grey asphalt is lined with blown out Shield, marbled and veined with the region’s weathered history along with the sayonara colours of oak, birch and maple. There’s nothing in this world that dies with such fiery vibrancy than summer. We’ve landed at the celebratory halfway point of the tour in the middle of summer’s demise and winter’s rebirth.
We’re on our way to Thunder Bay for event number ten on the National Inside Tour. One of the things I love about the changing of the leaves is that you get to see all the individual trees that make up the forest. Away from the green mass of their summer coats you can see their shape, their size and their leaves, you see their trunks and their branches; for once you can distinguish one tree from the other.
That’s also what I like about the National Inside Ride Tour, we get to distinguish each child from all the rest. We get the privilege of meeting them and seeing them for their uniqueness, their special gifts and learn their individual story that sets them apart from all the other children. It’s an important part of this tour that they don’t get lost in the summer forest; that they stand out in all their fiery vibrancy. Like Becky Courage from St. John’s, Parker in Halifax, Kendric Campbell from Moncton, and Isaac in Saint John, Samuel Doucet in Saguenay, all the Candlelighters kids in Ottawa, Emma and Mackenzie in Kingston, Mighty Mateo and Lilly in Hamilton, Adam and Dylan in Toronto, Ellie and Preston in Sudbury and Connor in Thunder Bay.
Twelve year-old Connor McKinnon has been a Quality Camper for 5 years, enjoying the physical and mental benefits that come with being treated like any other regular kid, away from his treatment and constant reminders of his cancer. His family are grateful recipients of the chance to forget it all too, for a while at least. His mum speaks eloquently of the simple joys Conner and his younger brother Denver experience in unwinding from the, often undetected, stresses such an illness brings to a child. Before we munch of Persians and bounce around the floor for the next 30 minutes in our ridiculous costumes she brings the sobering why home to us. Thank you, Kelli.
And munch on Persians and bounce we do! If you’re going to take on the challenge of a Persian you’re going to have to take on the challenge of an Inside Ride just to compensate for the dramatic caloric intake you just committed to. They might look innocent in their pink coating but make no mistake, these doughy babies could knock down a moose. I ate one 20 hours earlier and I’m still not hungry.
At the end of Thunder Bay’s Inside Ride, they’ve spent the energy of more than three fairies, six cops and five pirates, raised over twenty thousand dollars and eaten more than two dozen Persians, not bad for an hour’s worth of work! Congratulations Thunder Bay residents and Camp Quality on completing your third National Inside Ride and raising much-appreciated and greatly-needed funds ensuring your stand-out children stay strong and unique in all their fiery vibrancy.