Pete Viol’s adventures have taken him far and wide – typically from the saddle of his bicycle – and often involve raising funds for various good causes. Earlier this week, it was seated in a canoe that he started his latest trip, a 750-kilometre route from Port Severn to Ottawa.
Sunday’s launch marked the fifth year in a row that the now-retired Waterloo Regional Police officer has embarked on a voyage to raise money for St. Mary’s Regional Cardiac Care Centre.
Viol’s project last year was to walk the Bruce Trail in its entirety, covering some 890 kms. Previously, he has biked from Vancouver to Waterloo Region. This year he wanted to try something a little different.
“I’ve covered everything from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the US-Mexican border to the Arctic Ocean, most of that’s by bicycle.”
In the past four years, Viol’s charity events have helped raise more than $112,000 for the local hospital’s cardiac centre. This year he hopes to raise close to $30,000 before he comes home.
The trips hold a special meaning for Viol. In 1983 he lost his wife to complications from a heart transplant. It’s his goal to raise awareness for cardiac disease and women’s heart health. Cardiac disease continues to be a leading cause of death for Canadian women. A women dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes. Viol also noted that in other years he fundraised for the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre after losing beloved family members to cancer.
Viol is a recently retired police sergeant who says he’s constantly striving to give back to his community.
After getting involved with a Toronto charity that raised money for childhood cancer issues by biking four-day tours of southern Ontario, he learned how to create the same idea here in Waterloo Region.
“I took the idea and said, ‘alright, here we have Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa’ – it was the perfect distance to have a three- to four-day tour. So I got a bunch of guys – it was sworn officers and civilian members of the Waterloo Regional Police – I think the first year there were eight or nine of us that biked, so that’s how it all started. And I did that for five or six years, then turned it over to one of the guys who had been helping me out and started doing these solo trips,” said Viol.
Over the course of his trips, Viol notes he’s run into a few problems, some of which include bears and mountain lions, as well as unfortunate bike crashes.
“You do what you can, and you get the distance out each day – it’s not easy,” added Viol.
“From Port Severn on Georgian Bay down to Trenton on Lake Ontario, and then from Trenton over to Kingston along the shore of Lake Ontario and up the Rideau Canal system in Ottawa – there’s lots of issues with this route that are going to be a challenge, but take your time – the thing you’ve got to be careful with, with this trip, is weather. Weather is going to be more of a factor on this trip than on any other, wind being the biggest part of it. You can pedal your bike or walk on the Bruce Trail or walk to Ottawa and get rained on, you have high winds – with this you have to be more careful. There’s some big bodies of water, too.”
Viol will enter the Rideau Canal system from Kingston, following the Rideau heritage route, passing historical sites and through small towns such as Westport, Perth, Smith Falls and Kemptville. He’ll complete his journey at the nation’s capital.
Locally, people can follow Viol’s canoe for cardiac journey through social media. On Tuesday, Viol tweeted that he made it through Lake Couchiching, and was off the water by noon to get out of the heat and regroup. He’s expecting a challenging day ahead of him with Lake Simcoe.
Viol has seen many beautiful Canadian locations thanks to these adventures; his most memorable was in Banff, biking along the mountains and glaciers.
Anyone looking to make a donation to support Canoe for Cardiac can do so online.