Lindsay Chung is preparing for a trip of a lifetime.
In June, she will fly to Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to meet up with a group heading out on a 600 km bike ride, called the Battlefield Bike Ride, in aid of Wounded Warriors Canada.
“This ride commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Battle of the Medak Pocket in Croatia in 1993. That was Canadian troops’ most intense conflict at the time since the Korean war.
“Canadian Troops went as a [United Nations] peacekeeping mission, but they went into a place where there was no peace,” she explains.
More than 40,000 Canadian soldiers were deployed into the former Yugoslavia for UN and NATO missions between the 1990s and early 2000s in the Balkans, according to Wounded Warriors Canada.
The bike ride will visit places of significance for Canadian Armed Forces, and will end at the site of the battle of the Medak Pocket in Croatia on June 15, the 25th anniversary of that intense battle.
The 1993 battle saw soldiers of 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) subjected to heavy machine gun, artillery and small arms fire.
“My friend Paul Nichols, who started the Communities for Veterans Foundation [in Quesnel], served in the battle when he was in his twenties,” says Chung.
“That’s what made me want to do this ride. It will be crazy to be there 25 years later; to see it and learn about it more, and in this way try to honour and recognize what the Canadians did over there.”
Chung says she’s been interested in helping veterans for a long time, after having grown up in the military town of Comox, on Vancouver Island.
“My dad was a nurse in the military and he trained some of the people going over to the Balkans, but I don’t know if it was for that specific battle.
“But it’s been a big thing around me and I’ve always been pretty aware of it,” she says.
In 2015, Chung joined Quesnel’s Paul and Terry Nichols on their Ride Across Canada as part of their Communities for Veterans Foundation, in which they rode their horses across the country to raise awareness for the physical and mental challenges of Canadian veterans.
“[Veterans’ issues have] always been important to me, but I never had a way to help and to show my support before. Doing the Ride Across Canada just brought that back for me.”
Shape up and ship out
Chung says she’s been cycling indoors to prepare for the 600 km ride because of the winter weather, but hopes to get outside now that the sun has started shining more regularly.
“I hooked my bike up to a magnetic indoor trainer and I’ve been training three to five mornings a week. I’m just starting to get outside, but the snow has kept me off the roads.”
Although she’s committed to the cause and excited to travel, she’s never been outside North America before, so doesn’t really know what to expect.
“I have no idea what the terrain will be like,” she laughs, but says she’s training as hard as she can.
Most days will be around 70-80 km, and Chung says there is a longer day of about 140 km to prepare for, but the route is by no means a race.
“I think it will be, you bike a few hours and then there’s a lunch break or stopping at a monument. We will learn about the events and the battles, so there will be a fair amount of stopping for that. The pace will be… not leisurely, but it’s not a race,” says Chung.
Funds for Wounded Warriors
In order to go on the ride, Chung and other participants had to commit to raising at least $4,000 for Wounded Warriors, and they have to pay for their own flights and travel.
Chung has so far raised a little over $3,000 for the charity since she signed up last fall.
“It was daunting when I signed up for this, with the $4,000 minimum,” she comments.
She shared her fundraising page on social media, and also decided to sell Arrowhead Coffee from a veteran-owned company in Ottawa as a fundraiser.
“It’s nice to know people are behind you and want you to succeed; its like they are cheering you on each time they donate, so it’s a big motivator at 5 a.m. when I trudge down to train on my bike.”
She decided to support veteran-owned companies as much as she could in her fundraising.
”I’m trying to keep it all stuff that I care about. Yes, I want to raise money for my bike ride, but I want to support these veteran-owned businesses too, so that I’m not the only one benefitting from it,” she comments.
To raise the final $1,000 and beyond, Chung is also organizing a Cowboy Festival at the Nichols’ Pen-Y-Bryn Farm in Kersley on April 21, and an Interstellar Jays concert at the farm on May 4.
The all-day family-friendly Cowboy Festival will feature two artists from Horsefly: singer-songwriter Bernadette Ducharme, and cowboy poet Bruce Rolph; as well as Hugh McLennan, the host of the Spirit of the West radio show.
“I’m so excited about that. I listen to Hugh McLennan every Sunday morning, so it will be amazing to have him on the farm. And the artists from Horsefly were on board to come right away too, so that was really heartwarming that so many people were interested in helping me, and helping the charity,” says Chung.
The Festival will include a pig roast, horseback rides, a shooting demonstration and a chili cook-off, as well as other crowd pleasing events that are still in the works.
Chung is seeking community sponsors for the Festival, to help pay for the entertainment and activities, so that it contributes to her fundraising effort rather than taking away from it. But Chung also wants to bring people together.
“I love all that old west cowboy stuff, and I’m sure I’m not the only one,” she says.
“It’s an excuse for people to celebrate that lifestyle, and hopefully learn a few things.”
Beer from Three Ranges Brewing from Valemount, another veteran-owned outfit, will be available at the Festival.
“They have been super supportive and have donated to my bike ride, and they might be giving me a bike jersey to wear,” says Chung.
Chung’s deadline for the $4,000 minimum fundraising is May 9, so she’s got a lot to think about as she continues to train for the physical aspect of the trip. She says the time and financial commitment has felt overwhelming, but she knows the experience will be worth it.
“For me, it’s all about the learning experience. I think it will be just amazing and life changing. It’s crazy to think I’m doing something so big, so I feel pretty grateful that I have the opportunity to this.
“I think it will be a lot like the Ride Across Canada in 2015 – seeing the country in a new way and meeting so many people – and it will really change my life.”
To donate to Lindsay Chung’s Wounded Warriors Canada Battlefield Bike Ride, check out her fundraising page at http://wwcan.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1001596&pg=personal&fr_id=1060, call Lindsay at 1 250 510 5508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets for the Cowboy Festival are available at Lil’ Red Pony Feed and Supplies, Circle ‘S’ Western Wear, Bouchie Lake Country Store or online at penybrynfarm.ca.