kevin mills, nikki davenport
A complete gallery of their trip is available on the website.

Kevin Mills, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2009, embarked on a coast to coast tour to spread awareness on the of physical activity for those living with a disability. Mills and his cycling partner Nikki Davenport passed though Cowichan Valley on Sept. 28 and 29 making stops in Chemainus, then Mill Bay.

“One day during a bike ride, Nikki asked if I would like to bike across Canada,” said Mills. “I don’t know if she knew the magnitude of what she was asking, or how impactful it could be. To her, she was just asking a friend who happened to have a disability to bike across Canada. I felt this suggestion was amazing and knew it was so much bigger than just a ride for me, and felt it could help and benefit a lot of people. I’m so lucky to have a friend like Nikki; doing this without her would be impossible. During the ride I need so much assistance. It’s pretty special what she’s done, she put her life on hold for four months to do this with me, she’s away from her loved ones and put her career on hold, so I’m so grateful to be her friend.”

The two friends drove out to the East Coast to set out on their 7,400 km cross-county hand-cycling tour from Canada’s most eastern point of Cape Spear, Newfoundland on May 24, and completed this incredible feat at Ogden Point Breakwater, Victoria on Sept. 30.

Mills said being finished and seeing family brings a sense of elation.

“This end point is very significant to me, because I used to scuba dive there, and have a lot of memories from it,” said Mills.”It’s been a long journey, and I am glad to be done, but it’s been such an amazing trip that I am almost a little sad to be done.”

Shortly after Mills’s injury his wife Heather started a not-for-profit spinal cord recovery centre called Walk It Off in 2012 in Newmarket, Ont., where they live. This is where Mills, who is both a board member and client, first met Davenport who was one of the neuro-recovery trainers, as well as a kinesiologist and an osteopath. Their friendship and biking bond grew from there.

“Heather and I went down to Florida, and did this activity-based therapy program, and she was like, we need to bring this back to Canada, so not only you can do it, but so it can help other people too,” said Mills. “About a year after my injury, I decided that I wanted to push a half-marathon in my wheelchair, so I did, and came in dead last by a lot. All the runners came back out to cheer me on, I was way over the time limit but the police and paramedics kept the road closed for me. It was just such an amazing experience, that I started doing more of it, and it just went from there.”

Mills used an upright hand-cycle that clips into a wheelchair for his journey, and had an extra one that was stolen off the back of their trailer when they were in Quebec City, which cost nearly $10,000 to replace.

“Luckily there was a donor who was able to buy me a new one which was incredible,” said Mills. “There was a BBC story and Kate Winslet picked it up. She donated money for our trip, and told her friend Edward Norton about our cause and he did as well. I got to email Kate Winslet a few times so it was really quite special.”

Aside from being starstruck, other moments that stuck out for Mills was the hurricane he encountered while still in Newfoundland and the warm welcome he received from the people of Lion’s Head, Ont., both of which blew him away. But the reaction from school kids who waited outside to cheer him on is what most touched his heart.

“The kids got to ask me questions and that is going to stand out in my mind for sure,”said Mills. “They were so genuine, and those are the people I want to talk to help change things going forward. In Nanaimo, all the kids looked around to see what was accessible and what was not, to me that was just so amazing.”

Pedaling Possibilities is a registered not-for profit which was created when Davenport and Mills decided to conquer their quest, and is something that will continue going forward. After all the trip’s expenses are deducted, Mills figures they have raised around $40,000 which will be incorporated into grants for which people can apply.

“We’re not done in Victoria, we still want to keep it going and encourage more people to get active,” said Mills. “All the money we are raising for people with disabilities will go towards getting adapted for equipment, or activity-based therapy. We want to make it more broad so people can ask for help buying a hand-cycle, or a kayak or if they want to participate in an activity-based therapy program we would subsidize that. By me biking I wanted to start a discussion to let people see that you can travel with a disability, and you can get active and overcome things, I just hope I inspire people to get out and be active.”

Chadd Cawson
Victoria News
Oct 31, 2023