On March 1, 2012, Canadian Adam Biel will leave Ushuaia, Argentina, to cycle through two continents in 100 days. His goals? Break the Pan-American Highway world record and raise awareness and money towards autism.
Cendrine Marrouat: Why did you choose the raise awareness of autism?
Adam Biel: In my third year of university I decided that I wanted to do something to give back for the $150K scholarship I was attending university on. A friend of mine, whose younger sister has autism, suggested that I do a fundraiser for autism. That suggestion spurred me to research autism further. I realized that autism is growing at the same rate cancer was growing when my parents were my age.
We don't know what causes autism, why it's growing so fast, how to prevent it or how to treat it. By taking a look at prevalence around the world I realized that autism is on the verge of becoming a global epidemic. It's because of this knowledge that I was compelled to raise awareness of autism.
I'm not raising awareness because autism affects someone in my family but because it is a global issue we simply aren't facing head on. As a nation and as an international community, we do not have the facilities or resources to support the individuals currently diagnosed with autism throughout their lives, ignoring the fact that it's prevalence is increasing at close to 10% per year.
CM: How did you come up with the idea of breaking the Pan-American Highway record?
AB: I began raising awareness for autism in 2009 after graduating from university by cycling from Alaska toward Argentina, speaking to people along the way, and filming the stories of people with autism. I cycled over 17,000 miles as part of Cycle Pan-America's predecessor "Adventure for Autism". While on that journey, I realized my efforts would be better used if I could create mass awareness - the Pan-American highway cycling record seemed like just the thing to do. In February 2010 I decided, officially, to add breaking the record to my cycling journey as a way of generating interest.
CM: What will the main stops on the tour be? And what are some events planned?
AB: We are still planning our checkpoints and stops, but will have them posted on our website. Miami, and L.A. right now are the two stop we have planned for our promo. I will be attempting, in each city, to ride 230 miles (370 Km) in 12 hours or less, having people attempt to ride my pace for prizes.
CM: What are some of the autism organizations that will benefit from your fundraiser?
AB: The funds Cycle Pan-America raises in Canada will stay in Canada and will be distributed to various organizations working with autism around the country. Who these organizations are has not been finalized.
The list of organizations benefiting will include some members of the Autism Society Canada, including the Autism Society of British Columbia, Autism Ontario, the Autism Society of Edmonton, and several others. However, our goal is not to raise money for a specific organization, but rather to put the money in the hands of organizations that will use it effectively so that the funds can make as big of an impact in Canada as possible.
CM: How many people are involved?
AB: There are more than 10 people actively involved in making Cycle Pan-America happen - they are all volunteers with no direct connection to autism other than the belief that it is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The team currently joining me on the trek is made up of four individuals (Campaign Manager, Tech, Photographer, and Videographer)
CM: What do you want the main message of Cycle Pan-America to be?
AB: Autism is an issue we need to face as a Global community. It affects people in second and third world countries just like it does in Canada and the USA, and affects people of all races. If nothing changes, it will be THE legacy of my generation. However, if we unite and challenge it, we can take the first step to conquer autism together.
As a secondary message I want people to know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind and will to. I bought my first bike three years ago and according to traditional medicine I shouldn't be alive and if I did survive childhood I was supposed to be short and non-athletic.
CM: How can people help?
AB: There is many ways people can get involved in helping, either through donations, following us on our social networks (Twitter, Facebook, website, newsletters), or spreading the word and getting others involved. We are also currently looking for sponsors of all types (product and monetary, large and small).
Also once we have checkpoints and stops planned out, we will need volunteers in selected cities to help with set up and take down of events.
For more information on Adam Biel and Cycle Pan-America, visit http://www.cyclepanamerica.com.