Ottawa, ON – Cameron Rowe, a 23-year-old Queen’s University alumni felt inspired to take action last Thursday, Sept 24th to help bridge the gap between the rich and poor, especially during Covid-19.

In an interview with YGK News, Rowe described the visceral contrast between those who are surviving, thriving and barely making it.  

“This pandemic, like everything else, is dividing the rich from the poor who are blocks away, but worlds apart,” said Rowe.  He felt it was time to take action, and help in one of the many ways he knows how. Through biking.

A test of local endurance, and compassion

Rowe, and his biking partner Georgia Bermingham, felt extremely close to The Running and Reading club, a nationally run club organized by Start2Finish with a mission “of enhancing literacy and physical activity among children experiencing poverty/deprivation,” said Bermingham in an interview.

Both Rowe and Bermingham spoke about the Running and Reading Club, where Rowe acted as director, had weekly in person sessions before Covid-19, that were two hours long. Bermingham has volunteered for the program since first year.

“The program organizes those sessions, preparing a snack, training the students with a run and reading to them! Seeing the student’s growth over the year culminate with a 5km run is a fantastic feeling. They learn about seeing and achieving goals, paired with improving their literacy skills, making it the obvious choice for the cause I would choose to support,” Rowe said.

“It was a-spur-of-the-moment thing for me” said Bermingham.

Rowe, alongside friend, Georgia Bermingham, a Queen’s student who took note of Rowe’s fundraiser through Facebook hoped to create awareness on their journey.

“It was a-spur-of-the-moment thing for me”. Said Bermingham. “It was also a fun personal challenge—I just started cycling this summer and wanted to see how far I could go,” she explained.  

Rowe’s interest in biking initially started on a test of endurance, biking “on a whim one morning” from Ottawa to Kingston, just to see if he could do it, Rowe said. “Once completed, it got me thinking about if I could do Ottawa – Toronto without stopping.”

This is when his idea to raise money for Reading and Running hatched. On September 9th, 2020 Rowe started a Go Fund Me page with the goal set to $10,000 for the program. Posting on his Facebook page, Instagram and other public forums, both the Kingston and online communities were eager to help.

With the pandemic in effect, and having online session, important to Rowe to keep momentum up for both children, volunteers and the organization.

“It was the logical choice,” Rowe affirmed. “Because I had just checked in with the current directors, and hearing about the transition to a virtual program, there are all sorts of challenges associated with the kids that be addressed through additional support from the money I could raise!,” Rowe said.

“The [children] in the program already struggle with reading. Studies have shown children experiencing poverty/deprivation lose three months of learning over the summer due to little or no access to libraries, experiential learning support units, or other academic supports. Now with schools closed for at least two additional months, these kids are in jeopardy of falling a full six months behind,” Rowe added.

For their youngest participants, that could mean the difference between learning how to read, and moving on to the next grade. Which would mean lacking the foundation needed for success.

During their 30 hour long, tiresome bike ride, he mentioned how much support and positivity surrounded them, noting how Start2Finish helped spread the message and offered supplies. Both Rowe and Bermingham were followed by their parents too, just in case they needed help along the way.

Both Rowe and Bermingham described the event as worth helping provide essentials like backpacks, books and snacks to impoverished children. A little goes a long way. They arrived in Toronto late Friday after leaving Ottawa, Thursday afternoon, but that did not stop Rowe from taking “an hour-long nap, he admitted.

Rowe “was still quite tired near the end…luckily the weather was perfect—ideal for spending the day in the sun,” Rowe added. He had a goal and although they ended the ride with $3,756 out of $10,000, their biking venture was a success.

When asked if interested in doing something like that again Rowe confirmed that although he might need to plan a bit more in advance next time that he, “will likely come up with something equally as crazy in the future!”

On Rowe’s off days, you may find him running Hover Direct, a drone flying business located in Ottawa, Ontario.

The fundraiser Go Fund Me page is still open, accepting donations.

If you’d like to learn more about either organizer, they can be reached via Instagram @camrrowe, and @georgiacrossbermingham.

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