On June 21, 2019, at Open Road/Boutique of Leathers in West Edmonton Mall, Tyler was let in on a surprise of a lifetime. What he thought was just a regular old shopping trip turned out to be the grand reveal of an epic motorcycle ride – fondly named Tyler’s Ride. As he browsed the shop for some new duds Tyler became surrounded by several members of the local biker community including riders from the Blue Knights, Bullying Enns, and UN NATO. It was in this moment that Tyler was told he would be joining them and over 45 others in a ride and rally in Bluffton, Alberta the very next day. In an emotional moment, Tyler was presented with a patched out bike vest and welcomed into the brotherhood.
“We are so proud to have you Tyler as a friend and brother” – Member of the Blue Knights
A special touch, a one of a kind ‘Tyler’s Ride Patch’ was created, placed on Tyler’s vest, and available for purchase for all participating riders. Tyler was also generously provided with some spending money by his fellow riders and a discount courtesy of Open Road/Boutique of Leathers so he could pick out a brand new leather jacket to wear on the ride.
The seed for this surprise was planted when Tyler shared with Dawn, one of his support workers, his longtime dream of riding a motorbike. Seeing how important this was to Tyler, and being a passion of her own, Dawn set to work making the ride happen with the help of local clubs Belt Drive Betty, Blue Knights, Bullying Enns, and UN NATO.
The ride took place on June 22, 2019 and began bright and early at 7am at Tyler’s house for a personal pick up. Tyler rode in a 2018 Ural Side Car provided by Guy from the UN NATO club. The group of more than 50 riders made their way through Alberta ending in a motorcycle rally in Bluffton Alberta. There had been plans to stop in Rimby at the CMDRA raceway where Tyler would have been the Grand Marshal at the season opening drag races, but unfortunately the weather was uncooperative and this portion of the journey had to be cancelled.
At the rally Tyler had an opportunity to get to know other riders and participate in a series of biker games including barrel racing, poker runs, and a ride in a slingshot car that came up from Calgary courtesy of AAA (the Absolutely Against Abuse clubs).
Two months later, the Ride continues to have ripple effects in Tyler’s life. Shortly after the ride Tyler was overwhelmed by the positive outpouring of support and excitement he received on social media. Riders from all different clubs were reaching out and welcoming Tyler to the biker family. Tyler reports having made several new friends and connections as a result of the ride, people who continue to be in touch. There are murmurs that Tyler’s Ride might even become an annual event and fundraiser.
“Citizenship is, in short, one of the profound categories that make us who we are, one of the crucial ways humans go about creating a life for themselves” – Mark Kingwell
Supporting engaged citizenship is a core value at Skills Society. Engaged citizenship is about belonging, contributing and having access to important opportunities and choices – all things Tyler experienced as a result of Tyler’s Ride. Through the ride, Tyler had the opportunity to connect with others, feel a part of something bigger than himself, and begin to develop a sense of belonging and pride of membership to a rad group of like minded community members.
Tyler’s Ride was made possible because of an incredible network of engaged and caring community members. A huge shout out is in order for all involved who devoted time, energy, enthusiasm, and offered a warm welcome to Tyler. A special thanks to Meghan Thompson for her photojournalism – beautifully capturing the event with her photography. It was truly an experience of a lifetime with lasting effects that continue to be felt and will be well into the future.
This citizenship story was prepared by Paige Reeves, Senior Leader of Research and Social Innovation, in collaboration with Tyler, someone supported by Skills, and Dawn Martin, his Community Support Worker.