Bruce Johnson and his daughter Holly will add another 28,000 kilometres to the odometer, as they travel from the topmost point in North America reachable by road, to the southern tip of South America.
This — what they’re calling the Ends of the Earth Ride — is the third long-distance motorcycle trip the pair has been on in the past four years to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), and certainly the longest, in terms of both distance and time.
Along the way, as with their previous two trips, Dad — an agent with Re/Max of Wasaga Beach — and daughter will be stopping at CMN hospitals and Re/Max offices along the way.
CMN funds children’s hospitals throughout Canada and the United States, including SickKids in Toronto.
Their first trip in 2014, when Holly was 12, took them from Toronto to Costa Rica; in 2016, they biked across Canada. Along the way, on both trips, they’ve carried flags signed by Re/Max agents, staff at children’s hospitals across the country, and families whose kids are receiving treatment. Both flags have been auctioned off at the end of the Johnsons’ trips, each raising about $30,000.
Motorcycle for Miracles also raises money for the family’s foundation, the Alyssa Rae Johnson Fund.
The fund was created by Bruce and his wife Mary in 2013, named after their first daughter, Alyssa Rae, who died in the neonatal intensive care unit at SickKids in 1998, 20 days after she was born with a large omphalocele — meaning some of her organs were outside of her body.
On this trip, they and Bruce’s 2007 BMW R1200 GS will go on a flight from Toronto to Edmonton, and then on to Inuvik, N.W.T.
Bruce’s wife, Mary, and the couple’s younger daughter, Jocelyn, will remain on the home front, co-ordinating fundraising and planning efforts.
From Inuvik, the pair will ride to , N.W.T., on a highway that was just completed in November, to touch the Arctic Ocean.
Johnson said he was inspired to take the trip when he was 15, and read an article in a Canadian motorcycle magazine by a writer who took the trip from one end of the Americas to the other on his motorcycle — in January, starting on the ice highway between Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik.
“(The article) planted the seed … I was consumed to do this trip, going through the Americas the same way,” he said.
The start of their journey has another significance for Johnson: he and Mary first met, in 1991 in Inuvik, and in 1993 the couple started a three-year cycling trip from that point, and through the Americas.
The motorcycle ride won’t take that long — just six months, to get to , on the southern tip of mainland Argentina — though it will mean Holly misses her first semester of Grade 12. In preparation, she completed three Grade 12 courses so she can graduate with her peers, and is now eying a university degree in global development.
The trips with her dad, she said, have been great opportunities for personal growth.
“I really enjoy meeting new people. I was a bit more shy before going on the trips, but being with my dad and seeing him unapologetically knock on doors and ask for help has helped get me out of my shell,” she said.
Not having to worry about school gives her a chance to “take everything in.
“It’s been really cool to experience other cultures by being immersed in them; I have friends in Mexico who I’m still in touch with.”
Before venturing out on July 31, they had already topped their $100,000 goal, in part thanks to “champion” Re/Max agents who have each donated $2,000 to the cause. Johnson estimated the family foundation, used by SickKids as an endowment fund, with purchases made using the fund’s interest for items considered of “highest” need, is now sitting at more than $400,000.
For Bruce, the trips have given him “a fuller heart.”
“There are so many people part of our lives who weren’t before,” he said. “Having Holly witness acts of kindness toward us from people when we needed help along the way has been a great gift, because now she’s not afraid of the world.
“We’ve had people stop us at gas stations and ask where we’re going, and they’re giving us a donation,” Bruce said. “It gets very emotional, because a lot of families (they meet at hospitals) who have lost children … it’s emotionally more exhausting than physically exhausting, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“As a father, it’s been interesting to see my daughter’s eyes opened up to the world. It really makes for a rich experience for the whole family.”
For more on Motorcycle for Miracles, and to follow their journey, go to , or find them on Facebook at .