High River's Family and Community Support Services is recognizing its volunteers in the Cycling Without Age program.
It takes people around town in an electric tri-shaw bike piloted by volunteers.
Coordinator Caitland Asmundson says one volunteer in particular has been singled out.
Gene Hughes passed away suddenly in August.
"We were really sad this year to lose one of our first, and most dedicated volunteers, Gene Hughes. He joined our program right from the get-go when we first got the bikes in 2017 and since then he has done hundreds of rides himself and made so many community connections. He unrepentantly passed away this summer and he was volunteering with us right up until that happened," Asmundson says.
"To say that his loss has been felt right across the community would be an understatement. He brought so much joy to so many people and we really really miss him and his dedication to our program, and especially the folks on the second floor of the hospital, he took folks from there out on weekly rides and just has so many beautiful stories and connections that came from that time. He's deeply missed."
To honour his memory, they've had Gene Hughes' picture placed on the tri-shaws that take people around town, and one has been named Gene.
Asmundson recounts one story in particular.
"There was a gentleman on the second floor that hadn't left the hospital basically since the flood because he didn't have the mobility to do so and so Gene took him out on a ride, and I remember him coming in and talking about it and how wonderful that was that it had happened and it just shows the program itself is so wonderful because it connects people back to the community. But what really makes the biggest difference in our program is our volunteers like Gene and our other volunteer pilots who really build relationships with people and make magical moments happen for folk in our community who might not have these types of opportunities otherwise," she says.
The town posted a thank you to the volunteer pilots:
2023 Volunteer Pilots: Gene Hughes, Ann Cadrin, Dave Holowaychuk, Luella Wojcik, Jon Henry, Brenda Walsh, Pavel Savin, Linda Tolman, Mai-Ann Sprung, and Wayne Austen.
Pilot Captains: Rick Green, Cheryl Kendall, Ron Kendall, and to our Pilot Captain and Bike Mechanic, Bruce Beauchamp, who ensures the bikes stay on the road.
Asmundson says there are two tri-shaws with one on the south side of the river and another on the north.
She thanks the Highwood Golf Club for donating storage space to serve the Northwest Community.
Cycling Without Age has worked with:
High River Hospital Recreation Therapy team and 2nd-floor staff and volunteers
Medicine Tree Manor
Seasons Retirement Community
Abbeyfield House Society
270 Passengers took 158 trips between May and October.
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