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Ride in memory of son, brother

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Linda Pilon, left, and her daughter Debbie Vernon left Keremeos at 6 a.m. this morning for a 4,200-kilometre bicycle journey which will take them from B.C. to Toronto in memory of Scott Vernon, who died in 1985 of Mitochondrial Disease.



KEREMEOS — With very little fanfare, two healthcare workers left Keremeos early this morning on a 4,200-kilometre bicycle journey.

The mother and daughter duo of Linda Pilon and Debbie Vernon launched Scott's Ride, a memorial for their son and brother who died in 1985 at the age of 12 of Mitochondrial Disease.

The two departed from the Main Street in Keremeos at 6 a.m. where they posed for a few pictures before heading out. Several locals stopped and rolled down their windows and wished them well in what's expected to be a month-long journey.

"Go girls go," one woman shouted.

According to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation, mitochondrial diseases are caused when the mitochondria fail. Mitochondria are found in almost every cell in the body and create most of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth.

The disease affects mostly children.

Pilon said she often considered other ambitious fundraisers over the years but work, family and caring for her aging parents always seemed to get in the way. About a year ago she decided on a bicycle journey and began extensive training and planning.

Her husband, Ray, will drive a support car through the mountains but once they clear the Rockies the two women will be on their own. Stops along the way will include Calgary and Canmore, where they will meet with others actively involved with fundraising for Mitochondrial Disease. They will cross into the United States and from Michigan they will visit Scott's grave in Sarnia, Ont. and a new children's hospital in London before finishing in Toronto where they will fly home.

"Our hope is to turn our grief into a better life for MITO children and their families," Pilon explains. "We wanted to do something to help. Scott loved to ride his bike, when he could. We wanted something good to come out of something that was terrible for our family and for other families."

Thanks to the generosity of the community, $2,000 was collected in advance and although their ultimate goal is five times that amount, they hope to draw awareness to a disease which many Canadians are unfamiliar with.

"We're really excited about this, Mom and I," said Vernon. "When Scott died, we'd go walking, biking or cross-country skiing to take our mind off things. We spent a lot of time together talking. I think this will be a wonderful experience."

Scott was her only sibling.

Pilon said she's lost weight as the result of extensive bike training over the winter, proudly showing off her new "bicycle legs."

Vernon, who is fairly new to biking, did a lot of yoga training over the past year to prepare.

The two will average 146 kilometres per day following the Trans Canada Highway for most of the trip. Their first day was spent riding from Keremeos to Vernon. They plan on camping for most of the trip.

Both mother and daughter work at Orchard Haven, a nursing home in Keremeos.

Vernon, who has five children aged five through 18, said there's a mixed reaction in her household.

"My five-year-old is worried that I won't be coming back, not knowing how long a month really is. My older ones are happy and excited and my 13-year-old really wishes she could come with us. I promised next time."

Pilon, meanwhile, has the enthusiasm of a little kid.

"I'm so excited... but nervous. I think Kicking Horse Pass is going to be a challenge," she said.

A Facebook page called "Scott's Ride" has been created. A CIBC account has been set up (00760/75-39436) and donations will go immediately to the charity MitoCanada.

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