In order to help his grandson Jakob, who has special needs, Ken Smith, 70, is in the midst of a coast-to-coast bike tour across the United States and Canada.
On Friday evening, September 7, Smith made a stop in Wallaceburg.
“The whole purpose of the trip was to put a security fund together for my grandson, Jakob,” said Smith, who currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and is from London, Ontario.
“Jakob is 16 but when he was born, he was perfect in every way, but two months later he was getting massive seizures, nobody knows why or how. The neurologist said that he would be dead by two, he would never walk, he’d be in a wheelchair, he’d never speak… and here we are 16 years later. He does walk, he’s never needed a wheelchair, but he doesn’t speak, he cannot talk at all.”
Smith added: “One thing I really admire about my son and daughter-in-law (Jason and Sue), knowing that he would never really learn like normal children, but they put him in kindergarten, public school and high school. What he got from that was the social skills, the interactive sills. This kid is an extrovert.”
Throughout his trip, Smith is staying at different fire halls along the way.
This is symbolic and close to Smith’s heart, as his son is a firefighter in London, Ontario.
“Being my son is a firefighter, and my father was a firefighter, I knew that is a high risk profession,” Smith said.
“I said to Jason, ‘if anything happens to you what kind of provisions have you made for Jakob or Sue if something happens to you?’ He said it is very difficult to find somebody who can be a care provider for a special needs child and get somebody on an on-call basis or even a permanent one, it’s very expensive… and he needs speech therapy.”
Smith added: “So it popped into my head and it was actually on an old bucket list I had… I said I’m going to put a fundraiser together for Jakob, go coast-to-coast, and create some funds for his financial future. He requires 24/7 care, he needs to be fed, he needs to be taken to bed, he needs to be taken to the bathroom. All that good stuff… but if anything happens to (my son and daughter-in-law) who is going to look after him?”
Smith said he has experienced some tough terrain on his journey, plus he’s fallen off his bike four times and was almost hit twice. However, Smith said he has received incredible support from the people in all of the communities he has visited.
“Some beautiful country, met some great people,” he said.
“I had some people say ‘I just read about you in the newspaper’… where? I have no idea. When I had a TV interview in Fargo, I had people pull up beside me, roll their windows down and said ‘I just saw you on TV and I donated.’ That happened all the way across the country. It was amazing.”
Smith is expecting to wrap-up his adventure in late September, when he reaches the east coast of the United States, outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He started his journey in Oregon, with one bike tire in the Pacific Ocean.
To date, he has raised over $10,000 of his $100,000 goal through a crowd-funding campaign on GoFundMe.
You can donate to his cause, here.