Prepare to be inspired…
Nathan Srigley is a 24-year old Niagara cyclist who has just ridden his mountain bike over 2,000 km across Ontario from Kenora on the Manitoba border (Departure: September 10, 2009) to Niagara-on-the Lake (Arrival: October 3, 2009). His objective was to raise awareness and funds for Wells of Hope (www.wellsofhope.com).
“Wells of Hope has successfully drilled many deep-water wells in Guatemala. However, drilling projects are currently at a standstill, because the drilling rig that was in use is worn out, obsolete, and no longer functional.
A modern, versatile and robust drilling rig is still required in order to continue to provide access to life-giving water through thick volcanic rock. Wells of Hope has currently raised the down payment for the new equipment, and it was scheduled to depart from Calgary mid-September. Nathan joined the rig on its journey through Ontario, and they ended together in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where a celebration of their arrival was planned.
The purpose of Nathan’s journey, which was called ‘Cycle for Hope’, was to assist in the raising of funds for the new rig. Local businesses were being canvassed for financial sponsorship as well as donations of cycling and camping equipment.
Sponsors’ names were prominently featured on the new drilling rig as it was driven to Niagara, and equipment donations were recognized on the support van that accompanied Nathan throughout his journey. Donations of accommodation and meals were also being sought along the route, and local cyclists were encouraged to join Nathan on any part of his journey.”
This is my interview.
Nathan – I am so impressed with what you have accomplished. I know that you have no doubt been extremely busy since your return, so thank you for agreeing to speak with me.
Although somewhat busy, I’ve just been laying low lately, and entirely got sidetracked on things like nursing a couple post ride injuries and recently getting over the flu. I’d be more than happy and willing to do an interview for your site, just let me know when you’d want to start!
Thanks Nathan and sorry to hear that you have not been feeling well. Let’s begin.
I think that there are too many cynics out there that would love to argue that the good deeds done by helping charities are self-serving.
What was your personal motivation for choosing this particular charity and what did you hope to accomplish – both for the charity and for yourself?
My personal motivation was simple: there are people dying in this world because of a lack of clean drinking water, the single most basic resource required to live on a day-to-day basis, something we all take for granted here. The urgent situation of the charity was to finish raising the funds for these new drilling rigs being sent to Guatemala, I wanted to help fundraise whatever I could to help make that happen.
How was the idea of riding a bicycle across Ontario created?
I wanted to break off and do something I never thought I could do; and by doing so, something that would hopefully capture the attention of people that would encourage them to give. It’s a weird sort of psychological thing I guess. You do something out of the ordinary so others will see what you’re doing and give to a charity. I figured, the bigger the ride, the more likely that it will be worthwhile for Wells of Hope.
What was your biggest challenge in preparing for your ride?
The biggest challenge had to be the planning. From what route to take, to what to bring along, contacting municipalities and police forces, figuring out what I’d eat, etc. The hard planning began two months in advance and this felt like far too little time. Out of this whole bike ride, it was the one thing that I hated (laughing). I’m glad I had so many people there to help with this part.
So when it came to preparing physically, I tried not to stress myself out too much. I did a three day rotating exercise of one day hard/fast pedalling for a half hour, to the next day of a 3-4 hour long ride, and the next day up and down hills.
I couldn’t help but to notice that your hand was in a cast. How was this injury sustained and what impact did it have on your ride?
That injury was conveniently acquired about two weeks before my ride. I cut a tendon at the base of my left thumb while cutting a piece of vinyl siding. The first cast that they put on didn’t allow me use of my fingers, so a few days before I left for my ride, I had a more workable cast put on that gave me the use of my four fingers while still keeping my thumb immobile. For the first week or so of biking it took some getting used to, such as not being able to properly switch gears for the rear shifter, but it was just something I had to deal with; and overall, it was just another challenge to overcome and I did.
What were the reactions from various members of your family/friends when you told them about your plan?
When I initially told my family within the first week or so of planning, the general reaction was one of support and some concern for safety; however, it was literally the day that I had the idea I was telling my girlfriend over the phone, and without hesitation she just said “Nate, that’s awesome. You should totally do it”. And that was a big deal for me.
I emailed Wells of Hope the next day with a rough draft of my plan, with no specifics of the ride other than it would be across Ontario, and within a couple days I met with Ted, the director and got the “green light” so to speak. And it just grew from there.
That took a lot of courage.
How was the plan for fundraising developed? What was your goal?
Having never done something like this before, let alone any fundraising of any kind except on a small scale, it was hard to know where to start. I began pitching my idea to some local businesses for sponsorship, which went fairly well, but we didn’t have much time. So a link was created on the charity’s website, flyers were distributed, and a blog was created – to help capture the attention of what was hoped to be a larger group of people willing to donate.
It was pretty cool though. On my bike ride itself, we had people come out of the woodwork and offer to buy our gas in the support vehicle, or meals, or just give us whatever pocket change they had on them. This was them coming to us wanting to know what the ride was all about, and giving without being asked. It was humbling, especially considering the economic situation in northern Ontario at the present time in a lot of the small towns – far worse than here.
As well, back home here, the ride was being used as part of a larger platform to encourage giving. Ted van der Zalm, the director, had begun a program sometime back, called “Dig a little Deeper”, which was a pledge program where people could “pledge” $10,000 over the course of three years to help pay for the new drilling rigs. Cycle for Hope was used in the presentations to assist in this, and from what I know, it yielded some pretty good results.
Was there ever a time that you thought about giving up?
Honestly, as difficult as the ride became sometimes, the drive for what it was all purposed for was in the front of my mind.
One of the first meetings I had with Ted van der Zalm when I pitched the concept of this ride to them, he showed me a picture that he always kept in his briefcase. It was a photo taken some years ago by a magazine photographer in South Africa, of a child crawling towards a well in his last moments of life; a vulture was visible in the photograph just a few meters behind, waiting for the child to die. Just as it had for Ted and countless other people when they first saw this, it was an image burned into my conscience after that. Afterwards I determined in my mind that if I ever became discouraged or disheartened, I would bring that moment to thought in front of everything else. There’s still a copy of this picture hanging in my room today.
Wow, definitely not the answer I was expecting. I am completely impressed.
At this point, what do you hope that the future holds for Nathan Srigley?
After starting school a couple years back for something that wasn’t too viable, I spent some time paying off the debt and rethinking what I really wanted to do. There are a few possibilities at the moment, including something in law enforcement or firefighting, but I know I’ll be content as long as I’m doing something helping others, paid work or not; and there’s definitely another bike ride in the works.
Sounds like a very good plan and I agree with your approach. Helping others is the ultimate reward. Everything else will work itself out in the long run.
I just saw the picture by the way. A truly heart-wrenching photograph. I can see why it made an impact on you.
Compared to when I was a teenager, high schools have now implemented a mandatory volunteer program. On one hand it’s great because the community benefits. On the other hand, “forcing” people to volunteer may create resentment, thus influence people away from helping in the future.
What are your thoughts on this new initiative?
I can see where some people would be coming from when they think it may cause resentment among young people from being “forced” to volunteer. However, I think the positive benefits simply far outweigh the bad with this new initiative.
When I was graduating high school, the mandatory community service program had just come into effect within the last couple years. The time required to graduate – I think it was 40 hours – is not a terrible lot to acquire over a 4 year period. And I believe that it gives a majority of students a first-hand look at so many different areas of our communities; working in retirement homes, clinics, doing yard or house work for elderly or disabled people, charities, etc. They get the experience and satisfaction of helping someone and seeing the immediate benefits. It’s a short amount of time required, but it can spur a lifelong desire to continue doing volunteer work long after graduating.
Sounds like it should work pretty well. I conduct a lot of student admission interviews for various programs at the College and I always make a point to ask about volunteer work. I think that it is very important.
Only once did I ever have someone reply quite proudly that they have “never” volunteered. That person, didn’t make it into my program (laughing).
I’m going to be starting a page on my website for Inspiring Quotes. What famous – or not so famous – people have inspired you with their words?
Oh and just to be clear, I didn’t NOT accept that person into the program simply because he did not volunteer (laughing). But certainly, it was indicative of a lot of other issues and immaturity with that particular person.
I would agree with you on that one, judging by their ridiculous response to your question.
It’s easy to think of many different quotes that would be inspiring in many regards, but one man sticks out from what I remember my principal telling me about when I was in grade school. He told me about Winston Churchill, a man and leader who led England through some of the toughest times in the country’s history, World War II. For some time after the war, he would make frequent trips throughout the country, and it was generally considered an honour to hear him make one his motivational and yet usually long speeches.
However, on one occasion, he was invited to an all boys’ preparatory school on their graduation night. Mr Churchill ascended the stage, and to everyone’s surprise, he said only this: “Boys, never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, give up.”
And then he sat down.
It’s as simple as that. No matter how difficult life becomes. No matter what you’re going through, never give up.
I love that. My father taught me the same thing. I have a picture of a bird trying to eat a frog that he gave to me that I still look at regularly.
I have used it to motivate my own kids and now I use it as a motivational tool for my players as well.
So you mentioned something about another bike ride. Without giving away the surprise, what can you tell us about it?
It’s not so much as keeping it a secret (laughing) as it’s just that I haven’t figured out every detail yet; but suffice to say, it’s going to be from ocean to ocean, but also internationally going through both Canada and the U.S.
Oh snap! I might have to quit my job and join you!
I really only have one more question Nate, but before I ask it, I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing your life. No doubt you have, and will continue to inspire others – I know I am.
And don’t worry, I saved the toughest question for last…
What is the best advice that you could give to someone who doesn’t know exactly what they want to do with their life as far as a “job title”, but they do know that they want to make a massive and positive difference in the lives of others?
No problem at all, it was definitely a pleasure.
I think the best answer to that is this:
There is no rush to settle into a career for the rest of your life, and never use money as a driving factor. Be that positive difference in everything you do, and do it to the absolute best of your ability. Quickly, you will learn more about yourself, who you want to be and what your calling really is. And do everything with a selfless attitude.
To learn more about Nathan’s journey, please visit his blog at: http://cycleforhope.blogspot.com/
Also, if you have any comments (or questions for either Nathan or myself), please leave them in the comment section below.
Please share this message with your family and friends. Much appreciated. Thank you.
Download this video of Nathan on his Jouney: (virus-free, I promise! LOL)