Feature Story Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Go West Young Man
Rain, snow, sleet, heat and smoke, nothing stopped Winnipeg's Iron Man
John Wichers and his wife Barb at the Royal Hotel. She couldn't wait to get him home safely.
hen a tall, lanky kid stepped off the boat fresh from Holland, John Wichers knew it was going to be an adventure with challenges like nothing he could have ever imagines. Things were different in 1957. Eisenhower was president, Elvis was playing on the Ed Sullivan Show, gas was 24¢ a gallon. Life doesn't come with a playbook. He was travelling alone, couldn't speak a word of English, didn't know anyone. There was no social support.
Fast forward to 2017 and things are no different for him. He still loves and craves adventure combined with physical feats of endurance.
Wichers is one of those rare people who can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Canadians heroes like Terry Fox. They're the type of people who think it's not about what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country.
"Terry Fox was one of my heroes. I knew Betty and Rollie quite well for a long time," said Wichers.
Imagine, you're on your bicycle a long way from home. Your legs are pistons in a car mowing down the miles and leaving provinces behind.
There was no whining from him about having to gut it out over the most challenging mountains in Canada.
No word about how grueling it must have been or the sacrifices he made or running the gamut of rain, sleet, snow and heat. Often rain ripping into him often to the point where he couldn't see anything combined with heart-in-your-throat climbs.
After all the intrepid man went through, there wasn't any bragging. Just his wide smile.
Wichers has never stopped. Long after retirement he's running and cycling to raise money for people with disabilities. This trip to the west coast was about "Ten Bikes for Ten Kids". Those are specially designed for handicapped kids and cost about $3000 each. His goal was to generate enough funds for them.
That's what he did and picked up over $34,000 in donations, enough to pay for the bikes.
He received a heroes welcome when wheeling into Winnipeg.
This changes the way that seniors are looked at in the community.
The country loves Wichers for wanting to help disabled kids. His legacy's going be here for decades.
Many years ago I rode a bicycle to Banff and that was the toughest ride I've ever done. I was 19, not 79. I started calling for my mama at Hope, BC. and had nightmares about riding in the prairies. By the time I got to Calgary, I was crying like a baby. So I turned around and headed back to Lake Louise to lick my wounds. And for the next five years there my body's still hurting.
I first met John when he was leaving Chilliwack for the second half of his trip. A couple of months, later the astonishing man returned by car this time. He wanted to show his wife the "beautiful country" he rode through to Chilliwack.
He called before arriving to see if we were on track for another get together at the Royal Hotel and so I could meet his meet his wife Margaret. Once again, I had the opportunity to speak with this remarkable man again and his supportive wife as they recounted his trip back in in great detail.
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