A pack of 30 bikes has roared its way out of the River City, en route to Alberta to raise funds to help end youth homelessness.
Ride to Reach is a charitable organization formed by Justin O’Connor and Tim Kasten. Its riders, from Kamloops and Kelowna, take part in pledge drives to raise money for causes involving youth.
“It’s all about community, grassroots and people who are frontline workers and have no budget,” Kasten said.
Ride to Reach first came together nine years ago and has supported various charities every year since, rotating between organizations in Kelowna and Kamloops.
This year, it will support A Way Home Kamloops, which is working to end youth homelessness.
“In the first ride, we raised $500 and thought, OK, we had 12 people and this was kind of fun, let’s do it again. Fast forward to now, it’s our ninth annual and we’ve raised $80,000 over the years,” he said.
Kasten, who is a carpentry instructor at Thompson Rivers University, is one of more than 30 riders who have embarked on the local fundraising effort.
A Way Home is run by Katherine McParland, who is leading its efforts to develop the Safe Suites program — a venture she estimates will cost about $400,000 annually to operate.
If the Ride to Reach effort is fully supported — it has raised $29,990 of its $50,000 goal as of Friday morning — that would mean about $140,000 has thus far been raised for the program.
“We’re hoping to open the Safe Suites program this fall, but we’re having difficulties finding an appropriate location, so our hope is to even just get a temporary location so we can get kids off the street,” McParland said.
A permanent location, she said, would be somewhere accessible that has various sorts of housing options for youth to use.
“A combination of communal housing, so youth who come off the streets can live with peers, as well as a continuum of independent options, so as youth gain independence and need more privacy as they do wellness work, they’re still supported,” she said.
McParland said government has been supportive, noting government typically wants to see an organization at least partially fund its own operations before stepping in with further funding.
She said the organization’s work with government includes formulating a provincial plan to end youth homelessness, involving as many as 10 government ministries from education to housing.
To sponsor a ride participant or to donate to A Way Home Kamloops, go online to awayhomekamloops.com/ride-to-reach-2019 or stop by the office at 653 Victoria St. downtown.