Wednesday was a memorable day for Quebec City Paralympian Jimmy Pelletier, as he successfully finished a coast-to-coast handcycling challenge and became engaged to his girlfriend.
“It’s a magical time,” Pelletier said after arriving at the Emera Oval in Halifax. “It’s a beautiful day for me and for my team. The journey was beautiful.”
Pelletier, 42, didn’t give up his passion for sport after surviving a serious car crash that left him a paraplegic at the age of 19.
“It’s really important to (send a message of) determination and resilience,” he said. “It’s also important to keep going no matter what the circumstances are.”
His girlfriend Manon Belanger cycled with him, leaving Vancouver on May 7. When they crossed the finish line on the Halifax Common, she proposed to him. And he said yes.
“We have been together for three years,” Belanger said. “I feel that I achieved a dream. … I feel proud.”
Pelletier and six other people cycled across the country in 65 days to raise money for people suffering from autism spectrum disorders and other physical or intellectual disabilities.
“What Jimmy was doing is showing to everybody around the country that everything is possible,” said Clement Lemieux, who cycled every day with Pelletier.
The team announced that it has raised $525,000 and is still accepting donations.
Lemieux said 40 per cent of the money will go to Patro Roc-Amadour, 40 per cent to Adaptavie and the other 20 per cent will be split between different organizations across the country. Bicycle Nova Scotia is receiving $1,000.
Patro Roc-Amadour is a Quebec-based, not-for-profit organization that helps people with autism and other intellectual disorders. Adaptavie is also a Quebec-based not-for-profit organization and focuses on people with physical disabilities.
“We have been very fortunate to be a close witness of (Pelletier’s) achievement,” said Lemieux, CEO of Patro Roc-Amadour. “Some days have been very windy, very cold, raining, but everyday we get up and keep going — that’s his slogan.”
Pelletier played hockey and baseball into his teens. After his accident in 1996, he turned to wheelchair athletics. In 1999, he competed in six marathons. He taught kids how to play tennis in a wheelchair, and handcycling the next year.
Later, he tried cross-country skiing on a sledge. He competed in many skiing events in North America and Europe between 2003 and 2006, including the 2006 Paralympic Games in Turin, Italy.
In 2012, Pelletier switched to handcycling. One year later, he finished third in the Canadian championships and 12th at the world championships, which were held in his hometown of Baie-Comeau, Que.
Now he plans to head to Quebec City for some rest.
“No more cycling for this summer,” he said with a laugh when was asked if he would cycle back to Quebec.