There is no greater feeling than riding your bike—feeling the wind on your face as you soar through stunning Alberta landscapes as your legs relentlessly push you to your final destination.
Throughout the summer, ATB’s Season of Cycling program has encouraged team members and customers alike to build new connections through group rides and training events, leading up to the challenge of conquering the ATB Highwood Gran Fondo on July 9.
Spanning over 135 kilometres through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, the ATB Highwood Gran Fondo allowed cyclists to come together and embark on a memorable trip up to the summit of the highest paved pass in Canada. For many, the opportunity to enjoy cycling is nothing extraordinary, yet for Allie Jenkins-Bennett, his upcoming participation in the Highwood Gran Fondo means so much more than just a race.
Jenkins-Bennett is no stranger to the joy and camaraderie of sports. Growing up, he was an avid athlete, participating in hockey, basketball, baseball and other team activities. Unfortunately, Jenkins-Bennett’s lifestyle took a drastic turn when he was diagnosed with MS at the age of 19.
“For a long time, I felt ashamed about my MS, like I was a burden,” said Bennet.
Everything changed when Jenkins-Bennett was introduced to Crystal Phillips, executive director of Branch Out Neurological Foundation. Working to change the overwhelmingly high statistics surrounding neurological disorders, Branch Out exists to unravel the mysteries of the brain, pursue neuroscience research, and ensure that all individuals can live fulfilling lives with “brains at their best.”
Through his involvement with Branch Out, Jenkins-Bennett felt a rejuvenated sense of belonging in a community of individuals he could relate to and be inspired by.
“The Branch Out Foundation works with a lot of athletes, and growing up in sports, many of the people I now am friends with in Branch Out are people who were my heroes growing up,” said Jenkins-Bennett.
The only thing missing was the opportunity for Jenkins-Bennett to participate in the various Branch Out events he tirelessly supported. He again wanted to be a part of sporting activities that brought him happiness, and he wasn’t about to let his health issues prevent him from achieving that.
On July 9 at the ATB Highwood Gran Fondo, Jenkins-Bennett rode alongside his fellow teammates through the use of an electronic e-trike.
“I have always been a part of team sports, and for the first time in a while, I got to be a part of a team again,” he smiled.
Jenkins-Bennett led his fellow cyclists from the starting line as he kicked off the Highwood Gran Fondo in support of the Branch Out Foundation.
With the purchase of each ticket for the Gran Fondo, the TransRockies Race Series donated $5 to Branch Out in support of their efforts around neurological research to ensure that other individuals like Jenkins-Bennett will have the resources and capabilities to ride their way to a richer and more fulfilling future.
Words: Janelle Price, ATB