“I always told my brothers what a supportive, passionate, loyal and aware community Lethbridge was,” says the former Pronghorns men’s basketball player and native of Comox, B.C. “It’s just pretty cool that they are able to experience that first hand now. My experience here at the U of L definitely led me towards doing something like this – to be more socially aware and more conscious of something way beyond myself and something more important than myself.”
The Mackinnon brothers, left to right, include Ryan, Ross, Scott and Sean. Here they are in Dr. Jon Doan’s kinesiology lab after a brief tour of the facilities.
Biking for Baha was an idea hatched between the brothers years ago. Their grandfather had wanted to cycle across Canada after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 60. A special bike was built for him by his eldest son (their uncle) but his declining motor skills never allowed for the trip to take place. In 2003, Baha passed away but his dream lived on.
“The last few years, riding across Canada became a big interest of mine and it became a huge conversation piece between us,” says Mackinnon. “We started talking about it but things always seemed to get in the way. This year, all of a sudden, all four brothers fell into a place where there was time to do it and so here we are.”
The quest to cross Canada and raise funds for Parkinson’s research began May 19 on the B.C. coast and passed through Lethbridge May 30-31. The goal is to dip their tires in the Atlantic Ocean sometime in July, all the while raising one dollar for every kilometre they cycle, as well as an additional dollar for the distance Baha would have covered for a total of $40,075. The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research is the recipient charity.
Coming through Lethbridge was a homecoming for Mackinnon and an opportunity to show off the University community he grew so close to during his time as a Pronghorn.
“Coming through Lethbridge was the best thing that could happen to us,” he says. “We’re pretty inexperienced touring cyclists so once we got through the mountains, Lethbridge was a key morale boost for us. It’s been so good to see Travis Grindle and Eoin Colquhoun, coach Dave Adams and a lot of the people I really respect and look up to. The effort they put in to helping us, we’re all taken aback by it.”
The group spent two nights in Lethbridge, participated in an evening fundraiser, met kinesiology professor Dr. Jon Doan, toured his lab and learned about his work with local Parkinson’s patients.
The generosity and open arms that greeted the group was exactly what he expected.
“I absolutely loved the U of L because of the small community,” says Mackinnon, who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education at Queen’s University and just completed his first year of teaching at an international school in Manila.
“I loved how you would be walking through the halls here and everyone would say hi. You have the small class sizes, everyone was friendly, and on the court, the crowds and the community support that you get here is amazing. You just couldn’t ask for a better place to go to school and I would recommend to anyone to go here.”
The group has now made its way through Saskatchewan and into Manitoba, and can be tracked via their blog (bikingforbaha.weebly.com).
For Mackinnon, as much as the ride is personal, it continues to drive home the universal lesson he learned long ago.
“I’ve thought about my grandfather on this ride more than I have in a long time and it’s one of the best things about this,” he says. “It’s really refreshing what an influence he had on our lives and what an inspiring man he was. It’s also allowed me to learn so much. Ignorantly, I didn’t realize how many people were affected by Parkinson’s and it’s really cool to be able to know there’s that support network out there and that we can help towards finding a cure, towards something that can help these people cope with this terrible disease. It’s been very eye opening.”
GET THE FACTS
• The Biking for Baha team was greeted by a group of local cyclists as they made their way into Lethbridge. The Lethbridge Lodge provided them with two nights accommodation, while Backstreat Pub and Coco Pazzo’s chipped in meals
• Mackinnon played for the Horns over two different stretches, from 2000-2002 and again from 2004-2007, scoring 862 points in 85 career Canada West games
• A true blue Pronghorn, Mackinnon and his brothers were given Horns basketball shirts by head coach Dave Adams. “I’ll always be a part of Horns nation,” says Mackinnon. “I love this place. If I could get a teaching job in southern Alberta I’d come back in a second.”
• Mackinnon will return to Canada to look for a teaching job after one more year in the Philippines
• To donate to Biking for Baha, visit www.michaeljfox.org orwww.bikingforbaha.weebly.com
This story first appeared in the June 2012 issue of the Legend. For a look at the entire issue in flipbook format, follow this link.