Journey for Janice, a cycling fundraiser organized by Jordan Freedman and Hartley Ruch to benefit Muscular Dystrophy Canada, is being held on June 25, in memory of the late Janice Freedman, who was diagnosed with polymyositis, a form of muscular dystrophy.
The bike ride through York Region, north of Toronto, will feature both 100 km and 50 km routes, commencing at the Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area in Whitchurch-Stouffville, and concluding at Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe.
It was late in 2010, when 17-year-old Jordan Freedman learned of his mother’s illness.
“Her diagnosis caught the family by surprise. My mom was hospitalized, as she lost the ability to walk and do everyday activities. Even her ability to swallow was affected. It was an extreme form of muscular dystrophy,” said Freedman.
Janice Freedman passed away in April 2012, at the age of 54.
According to Muscular Dystrophy Canada, the disease, which includes over 150 different types of neuromuscular disorders, can strike anyone.
More than 50,000 Canadians and their families are affected by a neuromuscular disorder. Principal symptoms include progressive muscle wasting, weakness and loss of function. Common signs include poor balance, frequent falls, difficulty walking, limited range of movement and drooping eyelids.
After Janice passed away, Freedman set a goal to honour his mother and to help families that are faced with similar challenges.
“One of my passions is biking and one of the traits I got from my mother was to give back to the community,” said Freedman.
“When my mother passed away, I had very little knowledge and understanding of the disease. Many families are affected by cancer, but not as many are affected by muscular dystrophy. I was driven to create an event and to spread awareness.”
In 2014, Freedman and his close friend Ruch decided to honour Janice’s memory by creating a cycling event, Journey for Janice, which raised $25,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Canada.
Freedman cycled from Toronto to Halifax, covering 2,200 km in 24 days, with Ruch driving alongside in a support vehicle. Ruch also ran 100 km over the duration of the trip, in support of the cause.
“Jordan is a true inspiration to all of us and his drive, energy and passion to help others knows no bounds. We are honoured to have him involved and are looking forward to the Journey for Janice event,” said Kevin Harrison, Muscular Dystrophy Canada’s director of corporate and business development.
“After I completed that ride, I needed some time away from the bike, but I knew I wanted to continue raising awareness for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Thus, the idea of creating a one-day event involving other cyclists was born,” said Freedman.
Freedman and Ruch created posters and brochures, which they handed out to different bike clubs, and through word of mouth, it grew.
“The intention for this ride is that it become an annual event, open to all participants and volunteers. The idea is to motivate people who are not necessarily expert cyclists to complete a challenging cycling distance, in support of a good cause. We have set the fundraising goal at $25,000 and have currently raised, including sponsorships, close to $10,000,” said Freedman.
Freedman will be the host of Journey for Janice, leading the 100 km ride, and Ruch will be the co-host, cycling the 50 km route.
Janice Freedman is remembered as an active member of the Jewish community, having worked with non-profit organizations and community groups. She was a woman who always put her family and friends before herself and was known for her unwavering positive energy.
‘Her diagnosis caught the family by surprise’
“My father and my two older siblings will be volunteers at the event. My dad is an endless supporter, always giving me advice on how to build the ride. The ceiling is so high for this sort of initiative and the only way we’re going to get there, is to reach for the stars,” said Freedman.
Monies raised will support research and supportive devices, equipment that families need to help loved ones suffering from muscular dystrophy.
“There is a short-term pain for doing a physical challenge, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the pain that individuals who are affected by muscular dystrophy face on a day-to-day basis,” said Freedman.
Ride information can be found through the event’s website.