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Bicycle tour provides chance to walk the walk

Brooks student heading to Ontario to promote sustainability
Kyle Wells

Grade 12 Brooks Secondary student Alyssa Stapleton will be giving up the parties, the pouffy dresses and even her own graduation ceremony this spring to take part in a bike tour from Toronto to Ottawa and spread the word about food security and sustainable living.

The trip is an initiative of The Otesha Project, a grassroots charitable movement started by two 21-year-old women in 2002. The Toronto-to-Ottawa trip, dubbed “Phenomenal Food Tour,” will head out May 1 and take the riders 53 days, arriving in Ottawa June 22. Along the way participants will tour farms, talk with food activists and give presentations to schools about food security and environmental sustainability.

Alyssa became interested in the project after one of the tours came to Brooks two years ago. Brooks’ Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA) club, of which Alyssa is a member, helped host the tour and Alyssa was impressed by the diversity of people and perspectives taking part. She found the visit incredibly inspiring.

“You’re not just talking about environmental issues, you’re actually talking the talk and walking the walk,” said Alyssa. “You’re presenting about sustainability but your actions do not contradict what you’re presenting about so it’s full circle, closed loop.”

Agriculture is a new area of interest for Alyssa, who has done a lot of work with SEA and the Leadership Ecology Action Program. Alyssa is an avid biker and co-founder of the Bike to School Program at Brooks, so that aspect of the tour seemed a natural fit. Food security, however, is something that Alyssa, while fully aware of and interested in, doesn’t have much experience with.

This year the project is split into three separate tours, with 15 to 20 participants each: Toronto to Sudbury, Toronto to Ottawa and Vancouver to Victoria, via the Sunshine Coast and Powell River. Although it may seem the natural choice for Alyssa to take part in the Sunshine Coast tour the timing of it, September and October, conflicts with her plans to be starting university at that time.

One of the perks of the tour is missing the last two months of high school, Alyssa said half-jokingly. In order to go she is going to have to work extra hard up until the tour to get ahead in her work and finish grade 12. She will be missing her prom and her graduation ceremony to go on the tour, but hopes that the experience will help her decide what path she wants to take in university and beyond.

In order to take part in the tour and travel to Ontario, Alyssa needs to raise $2,250. She has approached family, friends and everyone else on her email contact list and has so far received $645. She will be asking various local businesses to help out through sponsorship and is also asking any members of the community who want to support her to donate through CanadaHelps by searching the GivingPages for Alyssa Stapleton. Alternatively, they can contact Alyssa at either alyssamstapleton@gmail.com or by phone at 604.485.7585 and donate by cheque. Any donation over $20 is tax-deductible.

The Otesha Project website has online journals for all the tours so Alyssa’s progress can be followed at the click of a mouse.