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NBer cycles for spinal injuries

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Brother’s accident prompts cross-Canada bicycle tre

SAINT JOHN – Last year, Tracadie-Sheila resident Vernon Brideau was thrown from the ATV he was driving after hitting a pothole. He broke his spine in three places, severed his spinal cord and was left paralyzed from the armpits, down. It changed his life forever.

It also changed the life of his brother, Brian. It set him on a mission to cycle across Canada.

Brian Brideau, 43, is one-half of Cyclespine, a two-man team of himself and Dr. Renato Alessandrini, 46. Both men have been touched by spinal cord injuries — Brian through his brother and Alessandrini through a hockey injury that “popped (his) C 6-7 disk,” leaving his left arm numb.

The plan: to train all winter, buy an RV camper, enlist a driver and bike from Vancouver, B.C. to Halifax to raise money for Brideau’s brother.

But after running into all the red tape of having to become an official charity, the duo called the Canadian Paraplegic Association for help. A partnership was formed, and the project became a much bigger deal.

The 6,672 km trek would become one of awareness and prevention, and to raise money for the CPA. The drug company Pfizer jumped on-board with $5,000 for fuel and bike maintenance, and the CPA pitched in with promotional material and took on the job of media relations.

Most of the other expenses have been absorbed by Brideau and Alessandrini since the tour started on June 30.

“I think it’s better this way for my bother because he’s more involved,” said Brideau on Saturday as he and Alessandrini entered Edmundston. “I phone him every few days and I let him know what’s going on. (I’m) inspired to ride, and emotionally and mentally it’s much better for him to be a part of this than just sitting at home.”

The tour will wrap-up on Aug. 8, and Vernon will travel to Halifax to meet the pair and accept a $1,000 donation from the CPA.

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