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Former politician Ed Harper, 92, takes on 75-km bike fundraiser

'I thought this is an opportunity to ride the Don Valley Parkway — I’ll never be able to do it otherwise,' says retired Barrie businessman, who served as Reform Party MP from 1993 to 1997
Wayne Mawson, left, will be riding along the Don Valley Parkway with former MP Ed Harper during theBaycrest Bike for Brain Health June 4.

Ed Harper keeps on rolling.

The former Barrie businessman holds the distinction of being the Reform Party’s sole Member of Parliament in Ontario, from 1993 to 1997.

Now, at the age of 92, he’s expected to be the oldest bike rider to take on the 75-kilometre route in next month’s Baycrest Bike for Brain Health. Baycrest is an academic health sciences centre in Toronto that provides care for older adults.

Harper used to run and ski, but after a knee replacement decided to concentrate on road riding and has added upper-body work into his routine.

He gets out on his bike most days, even in the winter when the roads are clear.

His favourite ride is the rail trail to Orillia, an 80-kilometre round trip that he completes in about six hours.

Harper says he was compelled to join the inaugural Baycrest ride along the Don Valley Parkway last year for both the activity and the cause. 

“I thought this is an opportunity to ride the Don Valley Parkway — I’ll never be able to do it otherwise,” he told BarrieToday.

Harper lost his wife 10 years ago to dementia and says she did receive some attention from the facility during her illness.

The two used to ride together, but now Harper largely rides on his own.

“I’m doing it in memory of my late wife," he said. “It turned out when I got there I was one of 6,000 riders and they raised $6 million.”

He has already raised $2,500 and this year he’ll have company. Wayne and Trish Mawson, who are related to Harper through marriage, will join him on the ride.

The couple, who also road ride, found Harper’s quest inspiring and asked if they could join him. 

“I’ve always wanted to do something with Ed and this is a great opportunity,” said Wayne, a retired teacher. “He could do 25, 50 or 75 kilometres. Well, not Ed. Ed’s picking 75.”

The June 4 event is the only time in the year that the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and the Gardiner Expressway are closed to vehicular traffic, said Josh Cooper, president/CEO with the Baycrest Foundation.

And although it’s only the second year for the Bike for Brain Health, Cooper expects about 8,000 riders to raise roughly $6 million.

“The funds that come back, they go directly into our innovation, our research, education, our care — all things that are done not just on our campus that treat the community, but much wider and broader,” said Cooper. “Last year, we were surprised to find we had riders not just from all across Canada and the United States, but from 14 different countries around Canada.

“I would recommend potentially staying in a hotel the night before, because the DVP is closed," he added. 

In addition to the three distances, the event this year will also include a timed component starting at 6 a.m., which is for the more advanced riders.

Baycrest leads Canada’s largest federally funded dementia research program, the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneraon in Aging, Cooper said. 

“People are living longer, people are more focused more on their brain health,” he said, adding that by 2030 there are expected to be more than one million people affected by dementia in Canada.

While there are other participants in their 80s and 90s, Cooper expects that Harper will be the oldest to do the 75-kilometre ride. The youngest on that ride last year was eight years old.

Cycling has been a major focus for fundraising for Baycrest. Bike for Brain Health was preceded by the B to B Ride, which stands for Barrie to Baycrest. For 25 years, buses would take riders to Barrie and they would ride south to Toronto along different routes.

That is now on hiatus. But a B to B team migrated from that ride to this one and is currently the top fundraising team, expecting to raise more than $250,000.

To support Harper on his ride, click here.

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About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Bruineman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on justice issues and human interest stories
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