By Melissa Hayes
Toronto, Ontario — September 17, 2014 — 65-year-old Rudy Van Prooyen may be the very first cyclist to circumnavigate all five Great Lakes in one summer, and heâ€™s not doing it on a dare, or for the glory of breaking a record. Heâ€™s doing it in the name of water itself.
|Rudy Van Prooyen is advocating change through Blue Planet Ride.
The AkzoNobel retiree is spending the sixth consecutive summer atop his bicycle, with around 85 lb of supplies along for this yearâ€™s 7,000-mile trip, as part of Blue Planet Rideâ€”his self-supported annual mission to raise funds and generate awareness of Blue Planet Networkâ€™s safe drinking water initiatives.
Van Prooyen, whoâ€™s been a member of the global fundraising network since 2007, aims to collect around $5,000 in donations during his Great Lakes Circle Tour, with 95 percent of the proceeds supporting projects providing clean drinking water to Guatemalans.
With six years worth of distance totaling 36,000 miles by the end of this summerâ€™s 100-day trip, Van Prooyen says heâ€™s raised close to $50,000 since his inaugural 2009 ride, all benefitting a cause he deems worthy of more attention. He says 6,000 children in developing countries die daily due to waterborne illnesses, and half of hospitals are full of patients suffering from malaria, dysentery and cholera.
â€œWhere a lot of people go out and run or ride for a disease for which a cure hasnâ€™t been found, I ride because the cure has been found,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s very simpleâ€”itâ€™s basically drilling a bore hole, or putting in a pipeline, or catching water, and teaching them not only how to keep the water clean, but also how to maintain it, so itâ€™s sustainable.â€
Covering around 100 miles a day on a route he switches up yearly, Van Prooyen has journeyed through deserts, hurricanes, hailstorms, high humidity and in one case, within a half hourâ€™s reach of a tornado. Heâ€™s biked through the night, dealt with road rage, slept in city parks, and encountered a variety of wildlife, including a bear, along the way. He says such experiences are all a part of the trip, adding that his travels have also afforded him many positives as wellâ€”including breathtaking scenery and meaningful connections with others.
â€œI feel fortunate that I am able to do it, I love doing it,â€ he says. â€œItâ€™s a win-win for me because I get to see the world. I get to exercise and stay fit and healthy, and at the same time, Iâ€™m helping humanity which is what weâ€™re all responsible for, and I really enjoy it.â€
Van Prooyen says that while the obvious goal is to collect donations to directly benefit those in need, heâ€™s happy just to get the message out there.
â€œI would like to do more, but I take what I can get with every person I touch because it takes $30 to $40 to provide safe drinking water for life for one person,â€ he says. â€œBut itâ€™s not only about raising funds, itâ€™s about creating awareness so when people know whatâ€™s happening in the world, a lot of good can come from that as well.â€
Itâ€™s a sentiment Don Treschak of Treschak Enterprises says he fully supports, and as a longtime advocate of Blue Planet Ride, he adds that others should take notice.
â€œIâ€™ve been a sponsor for every one of his rides,â€ says Treschak. â€œAnyone who takes that much time for a good cause deserves more than money, they deserve our moral support and anything we can give them.â€
With his 2014 tour soon coming to an end, Van Prooyen has set his sights on Venice for next yearâ€™s route, and plans to continue Blue Planet Ride for as long as he physically can.
â€œWhen I first started working with Blue Planet, they told me that within 20 years they would like to supply 200 million people with safe drinking water,â€ he says. â€œI would like to continue to support them and their mission to provide the world with safe water, thereby making this world a better place.â€