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These awards were well-earned

Devon and Ryan Sheppard undertook a three-day bike ride and canoe trip for the silver pin, presented by Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley last weekend. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Devon and Ryan Sheppard undertook a three-day bike ride and canoe trip for the silver pin, presented by Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley last weekend.[Will Sloan / The Observer]
Devon and Ryan Sheppard undertook a three-day bike ride and canoe trip for the silver pin, presented by Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley last weekend. [Will Sloan / The Observer]
Earning a silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is no simple feat. Sure, there are some requirements – like community service work for local parades, food drives, and Legion activities – that seem relatively straightforward, and perhaps the skill test (like drumming or model building) is something that comes naturally to you.

But to take home the award, you also need to complete a three-day Adventurous Journey – one that might send you on an extended canoe or cycling trip. Such was the challenge facing West Montrose teenagers Devon and Ryan Sheppard, who accompanied each other on their grueling journeys through rural Ontario. They received their awards last weekend from Lieutenant Governor David C. Onley at a ceremony at Queen’s Park.

“Some of the trail that we’re on is just straight and there’s no shade, because there are big sections without trees,” remembered Ryan, who rode 160km in the Caledon/Elora area.“When you’re going down those stretches, one of the things that came across my mind was, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I had to think that over.”

However, he added, “The book asks you, ‘What did you gain from this?’ I got stronger in my legs, my stamina went up, and one of the other goals was to travel around the trails in Canada to see more of the country that I live in.

“Every trip has its problems,” noted Devon. “During his bike trip, my pedal just snapped off, and I had to go another two kilometres with no pedal.”

Certain problems also arose on Devon’s canoe trip between Cambridge and Paris. “Everyone said it would only take four hours to do half, and it ended up taking eight because it was so shallow. We had to drag our canoe a lot of the way, and we ended up being really tired.”

But again, every dark cloud has its silver linings. “I have a whole new respect for the wilderness,” said Devon. “We’re not used to that anymore – the average person doesn’t go 300 kilometres on trails across local areas. I don’t even think people know there are 300 kilometres of trails around.”

Devon and Ryan learned about the challenge through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, where they are active members. They both attribute much of their success, both on and off the trails, to what they’ve learned through the Cadets.

“Without Cadets, I don’t think I would know what I’d want to do with my future,” said Ryan. “My plan now is aircraft maintenance, because Cadets has given me a wide opportunity to figure out stuff in a field that I like.”

This summer, he’ll be one of only 50 cadets nationwide selected to take part in a prestigious aircraft maintenance course at Canadore College in North Bay.

When asked for advice on how to make it through a physically demanding journey, the brothers suggesting bringing a good friend. Devon noted, “As much as the journey’s fun, at some point you get frustrated, and no matter what you try to do, you always get frustrated at somebody. We’re brothers, we get along rather well, so our frustration was short, but if you just brought random people …”

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