Riding across Canada to battle TSC 0
Kevin Howitt of Tiny Township and his cousin Melanie Howitt, are gearing up' for the biggest challenge of their lives. The two are bike riding across Canada to make a statement about a rare genetic disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) -and to create awareness for all those who suffer with the condition that can cause serious health problems to vital body organs and cause growth of potential brain tumours.
The enthusiastic peddlers are leaving today (May 31) for Vancouver and will embark on their 8,000 km. journey on the very next day. Hoping to arrive in St. John's New Brunswick in two to three months their goal is to raise one dollar per kilometre ridden on the trip.
It was because someone that is close to him has TSC, Kevin Howitt was inspired to take on the biking challenge but the former St. Theresa student says he looks forward to the trip for personal reasons as well.
"I have always had big dreams of travelling and seeing the world. When my cousin asked me to do this bike trip across Canada to me it was an opportunity of a life time. To see my own country in such a unique way and to know that I'm not only doing this for my benefit in my goal to see the world, I'm also helping millions of others in hopes of raising awareness and funds in search for a cure for TSC," said Howitt.
"It's a very great feeling to know I am doing something good for people and giving them inspiration to do something great with their lives giving a positive outlook for people who have it or know someone (relative /friend) that may have TSC that they can overcome the disease. It's just extraordinarily rewarding and I look forward to meeting and talking with people along the way that are curious about TSC and those who have or know someone that has it."
TSC causes non-malignant tumours to grow in the brain and on other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart, eyes, lungs, and skin. A combination of symptoms may include seizures, developmental delay, behavioural problems, skin abnormalities, and lung and kidney disease. TSC is caused by a mutation of either of two gene -TSC1 and TSC2 -which code for the proteins hamartin and tuberin respectively. The Cortical Foundation ( www.corticalfoundation.com)is a non-profit organization formed in 2011 to assist those affected by TSC and features and Discussion Forum and web site for more information on the disease. It is a disease that is not well known in general -something the Howitts hope to change.
During their journey the two young people will be promoting TSC awareness in several differ-e nt ways anyway they can including going to local stores, coffee shops, fast food restaurants and leaving flyers to support the cause.
"I was suggested by a family friend that we even try radio stations and other awesome local newspapers while we are out there to help. We are looking for sponsors and it would make it far easier for us to afford considering we are taking time from our daily jobs to do this trip. We don't expect to be sponsored but the help is welcomed," said Howitt.
In preparing for the challenge the cousins have been conditioning emotionally, mentally and physically. Kevin who is currently a greenhouse worker at Wye Nursery knows he is in for a difficult ride but as a positive person says he will rely on the moral support of others to help him succeed.
"I've been running and doing yoga. I've been doing lots of cardio exercises but I don't think you could possibly prepare yourself enough when it comes to biking across the country," laughed Howitt.
"We've planned on biking through the Trans Canada trail for the majority of the trip. I believe it comes through the area so everyone is welcome to come out and say hello to us and talk about the cause. We don't have a goal for distance daily but we are going to aim for at least 6 -8 hours a day of biking. We'll be mainly camping and then staying in hostels and with any generous good hearted people we meet to take us in along our great journey."
Howitt says he will be purchasing his bike in Vancouver just before heading out on the trip.
"I wasn't recommended any particular name brand of bike. My cousin and the employees from Sportschek suggested that I go with a light road/touring bike," said Howitt.
"The qualities that I am looking for is something that will be light and durable that I expect to break down time to time but hope will be very simple to repair along the way when it does happen."
While Howitt has already visited the east coast of Canada, he is very much looking forward to returning and also visiting the west coast where he has not been before.
"I've been all over the east coast some of the most beautiful parts of the east in particular The Bay of Fundy with the Flower Pot Rocks in New Brunswick and The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. I totally recommend those sites and I can't wait to possibly bike The Cabot Trail," said Howitt.
"As for the west I've been told that if I loved the east coast that I'd love the west even more. BC is supposedly an unbelievable province to see. I am very excited and looking forward to meeting new peoples that we meet along the way that are biking a far distance - maybe across Canada as well."
Howitt is an easy going guy with a very big heart. He has a passion for music, loves nature and hanging out with his friends and meeting new people. A 3.7 GPA graduate of Cambrian College in Sudbury for tool and dye, he received and scholarship and was on the Dean's Honor Roll there. While he has been involved in smaller challenges similar to this one in school, Howitt admits he has never taken the initiative and become a leader in starting one before. He says the coming bike ride across Canada will certainly be the most incredible one he's ever done and also the most rewarding.
"I like talking to the people and helping people and not giving advice but maybe a second opinion. I stay positive and never give up on my goals and dreams. I like to keep strong connections and seeing mine and others succeed," said Howitt.
During the long trip public members can ride along with the Hewitt's and follow their journey through a special web site: www.coast2coast4tsc.comas they will be posting pictures and journals along the way. The site has a place for comments as well. To financially support the Howitts you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.