Northland’s project manager bikes for Birch Island students

BIRCH ISLAND—McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm project manager Paul Kaminski of Northland Power combined his love of cycling with a driving desire to “give back to the community” to power through a grueling cycling regime from Toronto to Manitoulin, raising more than $3,000 for the youth of Whitefish River First Nation.

“A feast was held at the youth centre where the community presented Paul with two special gifts to thank him for his efforts,” said Whitefish River First Nation Chief Shining Turtle (Franklin Paibomsai) in an email following the Monday event. “Paul has raised just over $3,000 on this first ride. Plans are already underway for the second annual ride for 2015.”

The chief and Shawanosowe elementary school students met Mr. Kaminski on Hwy 6, just south of the Village of Birch Island, and joined the cyclist in biking into to their community.

“I wanted to make sure I gave back to the community that are our partners,” said Mr. Kaminski, whose efforts were accomplished through the vehicle of the Mental Health Clara Hughes Big Ride. Mr. Kaminski explained that the ride is a charity organization that makes it possible to channel your efforts into the charity of your choice. “I asked around and our First Nation partners suggested that the Whitefish River support group was a good fit. I wanted to be sure that my group, Friendly Spokes Supporting Hopes, were supporting positive mental health outcomes through physical activity.” He noted that there was a positive cultural aspect to the program as well.

Mr. Kaminski began his journey in the Cabbagetown neighbourhood of Toronto, travelling all the way to Collingwood on the very first day, then making his way up the Bruce Peninsula to Tobermory and boarding the Chi-Cheemaun ferry. “I took a bit of a shortcut,” he laughed.

Mr. Kaminski and his family are avid cyclists, his daughter currently competes in provincial events and he has competed in the Master’s division at the competitive level. “I am not that competitive,” he laughs ruefully. “I haven’t made the podium yet.”

The cyclist said that he was very pleased to have had the opportunity to connect with Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA). “I hooked up with MICA and Maja (Mielonen) at the last minute,” said Mr. Kaminski. “They were a great help and support on this ride. I talked to Maja a lot about what they are doing to promote the building of cycling infrastructure.”

Mr. Kaminski said that he was very grateful to the many Northland Power employees and other people who donated to the campaign. “I appreciate the people that helped, the cycling people who came out and joined me on the ride and the many people who donated, helping us to raise over $3,000.”

Shawanosowe students joined Mr. Kaminski for a cycle around the village before giving a presentation to the group and taking part in a small community feast in his honour.