There were hugs, applause and even some tears as members of Re/Max Little Oak Realty welcomed Bruce Johnson and his 15-year-old daughter, Holly, to their office in Fort Langley on Tuesday (Aug. 30) afternoon.
The father/daughter duo from Wasaga Beach, Ont., had just completed day 30 of their 31-day Motorcycle for Miracles Ride across Canada.
Working in partnership with Re/Max, where Bruce has been a real estate agent for many years, the pair spent the entire month of August driving 9,400 km from St. John’s, N.L. to Victoria, B.C. to raise money and awareness for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals — a cause close to their hearts.
Bruce lost his first daughter, Alyssa, in 1998 when she was just 20 days old due to omphalocele, a rare medical condition that left many of her vital organs on the outside of her body.
The ride across Canada — which is the second motorcycle fundraiser the pair have embarked upon — is done so in her honour.
Throughout the journey, Bruce and Holly have stopped at every Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Canada, including B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver last Wednesday, as well as many Re/Max office locations.
“Everybody asks me all the time … what’s the hardest thing about this trip? What’s the one takeaway?” Bruce said.
“We talk about this a lot, and Holly and I keep thinking it’s the people, and its the fact that we live in a country where we don’t have to be afraid. You don’t have to worry for your life camping at the side of the road at night. It’s a really interesting change for us, this kind of trip.”
The idea for Motorcycle for Miracles came from Holly, Bruce’s second of three daughters, when she was just 10 years old.
“She asked me one day, “Dad, when I turn 12, can you take me on a motorcycle trip?’” he said.
“And I hadn’t been riding in years because of kids. So I said to her, that sounds great, where do you want to go? … And she didn’t miss a beat and said, ‘I want to go to Costa Rica.’”
The pair began planning their adventure, which started as just a regular road trip. But shortly before leaving, Holly had eye surgery at SickKids Hospital in Toronto — the same hospital where Alyssa had passed away many years before. While there, Bruce ran into a nurse who remembered his infant daughter, and that was “the seed moment” that inspired Holly and himself to turn their vacation into a fundraiser.
The pair had a goal of raising $25,000 while travelling through nine different countries to reach Costa Rica, but quickly exceeded that amount, collecting more than $100,000 in donations.
The success of that led them to do a second ride, this time across their own country.
“What we’re doing now is trying to raise more awareness … and we’re trying to educate the public,” Bruce said.
“BC Children’s is one of the top hospitals in the world, and nobody knows that. It is incredible, their catchment area is huge, they take a lot of kids with illnesses.
“And selfishly for me, what a great way to spend time with my daughter.”
Accompanying Bruce and Holly on both their road trips has been a yellow flag with each of the 14 CMN Hospitals in Canada pictured. They have been collecting signatures from every stop of their journey, and plan to auction it off sometime in the fall or early winter. The flag from their Costa Rica trip was bought for a $30,000 donation during a work convention in Las Vegas.
“There’s a lot of stories on this flag and there’s been a lot of tears on this flag,” Bruce said to the group gathered in Fort Langley, while pointing out various signatures collected on the Canadian tour.
“The flag has imparted a lot of emotion, so we’re honoured that you guys are all going to be a part of this.”
For more information, or to make a donation, visit www.motorcycleformiracles.com.