After cycling around 4,000km, brothers Brian and Ian Schumacher arrived in Canberra today – one of the final stops on their Coast to Coast Ride in support of Integra Service Dogs Australia.
The pair set off from Fremantle WA on 1 April for Sydney, to support Integra’s work in providing assistance dogs to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ian said while he and Brian are “a little bit weary”, the support they’ve received as they traversed the country has kept them going, even through setbacks like weather – tail-end of a cyclone, anyone? – and a nasty crash that saw Brian taken for medical treatment in a town 100km behind them. (Yes, they did have to ride that 100km again).
“Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve just been overwhelmed with well wishes, people who immediately got their phones out and started donating,” said Ian.
“We tried not to take cash donations, but people still gave us cash donations!”
Experienced cyclists, the brothers have always wanted to ride across the country and dedicated their ride to helping veterans and first responders after their own families’ experiences.
“Every family has their stories about mental health journeys, and we’re no different,” said Ian.
“We have, I think, five generations of veterans in our families and first responders, working every day, we sort of see the toll that that takes and this is … just a lovely way to say thank you.
“To have a reason to ride across Australia certainly motivates you, from experience that motivates you more.”
Their efforts have not gone unrewarded, either. The pair were met on arrival by the Governor-General and today enjoyed morning tea at Government House.
Integra CEO Ben Johnson said the pair have raised around $120,000 so far, which will go directly to purchasing additional assistance dogs for the program – each of which costs up to $35,000 to train, develop and place.
“They’ve helped both raise the profile of Integra as a small charity, helping veterans and first responders,” he said. “But they’ve also, more importantly, just raised the profile of needing to do more for veterans and first responders in different ways with mental health.”
Head Integra Service Dogs Australia‘s website for more information on the organisation’s work or to donate.