Featured Nova Scotian
“Craig Aucoin (right) and his friend and personal trainer Lloyd McLean will be biking across Canada beginning in August 2013 for the “Craig Gives Back-to-Back Cross Canada Bicycle Tour 2013,” to give back to charities that have helped him throughout his life.” [Photo credit: Christopher Cameron – The News]
Passion, dedication and determination are what motivate Craig Aucoin to live his life to the fullest – and his vision loss doesn’t stop him from achieving his dreams.
On August 5, 2012, Aucoin, along with his friend and personal trainer Lloyd McLean, will begin official public training at the Pictou County Wellness Centre for the “Craig Gives Back-to-Back Cross Canada Bicycle Tour 2013” set to start exactly one year later. On August 4, 2013 the pair will embark on a 92-day, 7,000 km journey that will take them across the country, while raising funds for the three Canadian charities that have played a significant role in Aucoin’s personal development.
Born with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), an incurable eye disease that was diagnosed when he was eight-years-old, Aucoin still had enough vision to participate in a variety of sports and had hobbies like any other kid. Unfortunately, when he turned 15, Aucoin’s eye condition deteriorated so much that he could no longer participate in team sports or actively play with other kids. His lack of physical activity and social interaction left him feeling isolated and depressed, resulting in significant weight gain over the course of several years and into his early twenties.
“Accepting that I would eventually lose all of my vision was a game-changer,” says Aucoin. “With the help of CNIB, the YMCA and the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, I was able to turn my dreams of being fit and strong into reality.”
A client of CNIB since the age of 11, Aucoin was provided with vision rehabilitation tools and resources to learn how to live independently in his home and community. It was through CNIB that he came to terms with his vision loss through the use of programs and services that helped him maximize his remaining sight.
At 23, poor food choices and a lack of physical activity from feelings of isolation and depression due to his vision loss resulted in Aucoin gaining a significant amount of weight. It was at that moment that he knew he had to make a change in his lifestyle or his health would continue to deteriorate. The YMCA’s of New Glasgow and Pictou enabled Aucoin to lead a healthy and active lifestyle, and ultimately become physically active once again.
Aucoin contacted Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind once he realized the mobility benefits a guide dog could provide him with. His guide dog, Baldwin, gives Aucoin the confidence to travel throughout his community while safely leading him around obstacles in his path, finding doors and seats, and guiding him through pedestrians and traffic.
Since then, Aucoin has dramatically changed his life. He’s completed seven triathlons, several running events and joined a local canoe and kayaking club. He continues to be physically active through kickboxing, pilates and yoga classes at the YMCA.
“I have more life goals to accomplish and one of them is to bike across Canada to raise funds and awareness for the three charities that made an impact on my life,” says Aucoin. “Through a mix of corporate sponsorship and public charitable donations, it is my hope to raise $300,000 for CNIB, the YMCA and the Canadian Guide Dogs School for the Blind, allowing them to continue the work they do to make a difference in the lives of people who need their help the most – people like me.”
Aucoin and McLean will depart from St. John’s, Newfoundland on August 4, 2013 and arrive in Victoria, British Columbia on November 3, 2013. Cycling on a unique, Dutch-manufactured and custom-made back-to-back recumbent tandem bicycle with McLean facing forward and Aucoin facing the rear, the pair will also camp at National and Provincial parks during their journey, minimizing their carbon footprint and keeping costs down.
Stopping throughout communities and visiting the three charities across Canada, Aucoin and McLean will invite cyclists to travel along with them for short segments, while also engaging in speaking engagements to the public and media to promote CNIB, the YMCA and the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. Aucoin will be the first blind cyclist to accomplish the cross-country trek on a two-wheeled bicycle.
“My hope is to inspire Canadians of all ages to overcome their personal challenges and adopt healthy, active lifestyles – and really believe they can achieve anything they want in life.”
To make a donation or for sponsorship and/or media opportunities, directly contact CNIB, the YMCA or the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.