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Mormon Businessmen Bike across Canada for Ethiopian Children

After riding their bikes 6300 kilometres over 42 days, three members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made a difference in the lives of children living in Ethiopia, raising more than $103,000 to help build a local school.

Albertans Vern Hyde, Ken Wallace and Mark Bishop — all businessmen in their 50's, began "Chain Reaction Ride" — a cycling expedition that began on May 2nd in Vancouver, BC, and ended on July 6th in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Averaging 150 kilometres a day, the men were accompanied by their wives Dena Hyde, Audrey Wallace and Nola Bishop, who followed them across the country in a trailer.

“We couldn't have done it without them.” Hyde reported, “It was a phenomenal experience. People were kind and generous everywhere we went...miracles happened around us every day. It was a life-changing event for all of us.”

An active “wish man” for the Make a Wish Foundation, Hyde has spent the last 12 years granting wishes and bringing joy to hospitalized children and their families by performing magic tricks near his home in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In the past seven years, Hyde has participated in three humanitarian expeditions to Ethiopia. His love of magic has been brought to hundreds of orphaned children, where he has performed, taught, and even created magic clubs for them. It was while he was working with the needy children in Ethiopia that Hyde was introduced to Canadian Humanitarian Organization for International Relief, a non-religious, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide orphaned and vulnerable children in Ethiopia with access to health care, education, and vocational training.

After a health scare in 2009, Hyde changed his lifestyle and embarked on an exercise routine that included cycling. When he discovered that these Ethiopian children were without a quality facility to house a thriving program, he knew that he could do something about it — all while riding his bike.

Mark Bishop (from Calgary) and Ken Wallace (also from Medicine Hat) joined the cause, encouraged others to catch the vision, and even invited people to join the team on sections of the ride. "We were trying to create a chain reaction,” Hyde explained. By the time the men reached Halifax, they had several corporate sponsors, 8000 followers on their website, and hundreds of individual donations from generous members of the public they met along the way.

From one end of the country to the other, Canadians were curious about their adventure. People inquired, “Where do you come from... and where are you going...and why?” After a brief explanation, many would immediately pull money from their pockets, contributing donations.

In the beginning two weeks, Hyde said they were physically exhausted every day. But by the end of the trip, their bodies had adjusted to the pace and it had become just as much of a mental exercise to complete the journey. Hyde said that the experience was “very, very physical, but very emotional and spiritual at the same time.”  The team took Sundays off to physically and spiritually recharge, attending local Church services and visiting the people in the area.

Hyde recounts, “It was the most awesome thing I would ever do and (it was) the hardest thing I would ever do.”

"We have learned so much about ourselves and the country of Canada, its' beauty and the magnificent people that make it what it is. What a glorious adventure and journey of discovery," said Wallace. "The ride however, has been about a much greater purpose than that. It is about helping those who have not been blessed with so much. Our greatest desire is to give an opportunity and hope to Ethiopian children."

Now completely built, the children in Ethiopia are thrilled to attend a "real" school. Wallace hopes that the school "will educate children and give them the chance to become self supporting...for generations to come."

A photo blog of their experience can be found at www.chainreactionride.com

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