December 9, 2018

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Learning disabilities campaign runs on pedal power

Bob's Bike Ride will take him across Canada from Victoria to P.E.I.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Bob Essex, who is cycling across Canada to raise funds and awarness for learning disabilities, says that this experience has helped him pursue a lifelong dream.</p></p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bob Essex, who is cycling across Canada to raise funds and awarness for learning disabilities, says that this experience has helped him pursue a lifelong dream.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/4/2018 (228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Bob Essex settles into the saddle of his bike in Victoria, B.C. on May 10, he will begin a journey of a lifetime — and one that was a lifetime in the making.

The 25-year-old Winnipegger is riding his bike across Canada this summer to raise funds and awareness for learning disabilities. Bob's Bike Ride, as it's been dubbed, will begin in British Columbia and end in P.E.I., and Essex — who will be joined on the ride by his girlfriend — is hoping to complete his journey sometime in September.

It's a cause close to his heart. Essex is one of about 120,000 Manitobans who live with a learning disability. Until he was 23, he struggled in silence. Both his reading disability and ADHD went undiagnosed throughout his childhood.

"It was really frustrating and alienating," he says of his school years in Stonewall. "I was just kind of put in the back of the class or sent out in the hall kind of thing. I internalized a lot of that stuff, and it definitely held me back."

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/4/2018 (228 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Bob Essex settles into the saddle of his bike in Victoria, B.C. on May 10, he will begin a journey of a lifetime — and one that was a lifetime in the making.

The 25-year-old Winnipegger is riding his bike across Canada this summer to raise funds and awareness for learning disabilities. Bob's Bike Ride, as it's been dubbed, will begin in British Columbia and end in P.E.I., and Essex — who will be joined on the ride by his girlfriend — is hoping to complete his journey sometime in September.

It's a cause close to his heart. Essex is one of about 120,000 Manitobans who live with a learning disability. Until he was 23, he struggled in silence. Both his reading disability and ADHD went undiagnosed throughout his childhood.

"It was really frustrating and alienating," he says of his school years in Stonewall. "I was just kind of put in the back of the class or sent out in the hall kind of thing. I internalized a lot of that stuff, and it definitely held me back."

The message he internalized was clear: other kids were good, and he was bad. He remembers being scolded for behaviour he didn't understand and couldn't control. Completing homework assignments was also a challenge.

"We'd have reading breaks in class, and everyone would get through two or three chapters — and I'd be sitting there, looking at my book, and get through two or three pages and not understand why," he recalls. "Doing work in class was also impossible because any other noises or sounds or conversations — even if they were between a teacher and an assistant — I couldn't focus." The result was hours of homework, every night.

"My whole life, I was told I didn't care enough about something or I wasn't trying hard enough," he says. "And that couldn't be further from the truth."

When Essex finally was diagnosed in adulthood, "it made sense right away," he says. "But it was also strange to piece together how to move forward. Your own belief in yourself just changes. Like, 'if I can work around this symptom' or 'if I can get around this obstacle,' then I don't have obstacles."

Now, Essex uses focus techniques and coping mechanisms to manage his symptoms. He has gleaned a better understanding of his behaviour, and has become more mindful about self-care. And he's pursuing lifelong dreams he previously thought weren't possible — such as riding his bike across Canada. (Cycling has long been a powerful tool in his own mental-health arsenal. "It's such a graceful movement," he says. "It's so fluid. You don't have to think about much. You just go, and let your legs take you.")

He pitched the idea of a trans-Canada bike ride to the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba, and the organization was thrilled to get involved. "They've been really great to me, and they've helped Bob's Bike Ride to take launch," he says.

In the winter, Essex began volunteering at LDAM, which offers a host of programs and resources for individuals and families living with learning disabilities. "They have a lot of great kids there and adults too," he says. "Over the past year, I've built some really great friendships there." And because of Bob's Bike Ride, he's even become something of a celeb among the kids there. "I haven't even left yet, and people are already being affected."

Other with inspiring others, Essex hopes that he can help dispel some of the stubborn myths and misconceptions that still surround learning disabilities.

"I hope we make it, and I hope we can show that people with ADHD aren't stupid or aren't trying," he says. "Their success is going to look different, and how they find that success is going to be different."

On Friday, Saikel Indoor Cycle Studio will host a "Bike with Bob" fundraising spin class at 12:30 p.m. Registration is $25 and and all proceeds will support the Bob’s Bike Ride initiative. After that, Saikel will be holding a series of classes called "Saikel for the Soul," and all registration fees will be donated to Bob’s Bike Ride. To register — or to donate directly — visit www.bobsbikeride.ca.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 7:16 AM CDT: Photo added

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