Cyclists will ride from Langley to Victoria on Saturday and Sunday on a mission to aid Canadian veterans of the war in Afghanistan.
The inaugural Highway of Heroes Bike Ride starts in Langley at 9 a.m. at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum on Fraser Highway, site of a memorial to the 159 Canadians who died during the conflict.
The 30 riders, guests, and dignitaries including Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese, will take part in a service before the ride gets underway.
“The composition of the group, which includes members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans, first responders, and civilians, is indicative of the fact that we, as a nation, are in this together,” said Jacqueline Zweng, the Highway of Heroes ride director.
The ride will conclude in Victoria on Sunday, with a visit to the Afghanistan memorial at 847 Courtenay Street and then the B.C. Legislature buildings at 4:30 p.m.
The project is intended to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warriors Canada, a non-profit that provides mental health support for Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and other first responders and their families.
The ride is a first for the West Coast, but a similar ride has been taking place in Ontario for several years.
“I know it means a lot to the veterans I know personally,” said Matt Wocks, spokesperson for Wounded Warriors.
The two-day rides are more than fundraising for some of the veterans who take part.
“Some of the people that are suffering, cycling has helped them on their journey,” Wocks said.
Langley and Abbotsford have hosted a stretch of the Trans Canada Highway named the Highway of Heroes since 2011. It is the second such highway dedicated to the dead of the war in Afghanistan in Canada.
More than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces personnel served in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014. In addition to the 159 service members who died, a government official, a civilian carpenter, two aid workers and a journalist for the Calgary Herald also died during Canada’s mission.
Langley became host to one of the earliest war memorials dedicated solely to the Afghanistan conflict in 2012 when the Pratt siblings, Elizabeth and Michael, began the Walk to Remember memorial project. They raised money to create a memorial and to plant a tree for each Canadian who had died in Afghanistan.