I can remember the exact moment I experienced real sorrow. I was nine years old and my father had succumbed to a brain aneurysm after spending thirty days in a coma.
Two weeks previous to his death I had tried out for the AAA Mississauga Reps Hockey and made the team. I shared the news with my dad while he was in a comatose state and he squeezed my hand. Two weeks later, I was told he had passed away. I remember the moment vividly. I was pulling my hockey equipment from the trunk of the car and I had this ominous feeling of dark clouds closing in on me. What was this new feeling? I felt immense sorrow and I still remember that feeling forty years later just like it happened yesterday. That was the moment I was introduced to the darker side of life. Within a year, my eighteen-year-old brother had overdosed on drugs – likely due to the pain he was trying to manage as well. My sister had moved to Niagara for school and my Mom was forced with the choice of being strong and moving forward or surrendering to the despair she must have been experiencing at that point. Her decision to stay strong played a large role in my life and helped me overcome the sudden bomb that was dropped on what I remember as a loving, family unit.
I really began wondering about school, sports, friends, television and even life. I was educated in a Catholic school and I was very disillusioned with the concept of being all loving and all good. Fortunately, I intuitively had enough resolve or naivety at that young age to see the bright side. Despite losing a large percentage of my family young, I still trusted life and believed there were enough people around me that cared about me and that gave me a reason to live. A strong social network appeared giving me a sense of family, but I needed something real and purposeful to do since all the other aspects of life seemed trivial, empty and hollow. At eighteen, I made a decision to open a business and Gears Bike Shop was born.
Going into a retail business was a great distraction from loss and sadness, while the everyday challenges also gave me a great sense of purpose. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by opening Gears I now realize I was searching to establish a new family with the community to replace the loss I had suffered from the outside forces that had struck mine.
Since Gears opened in 1988, we’ve been fortunate to create many experiences within the community that have yielded great things. We raised close to $5 million through events like the 24-Hour Spin and Race Across America. A Women’s Health Care Center was established at Trillium Hospital in honour of my mother, Betty Wallace, whom we lost to breast cancer when I was twenty-three. Many founding charity rides were established – all of which were inspired by a group of cycling friends who all went on to achieve great things for a number of charities.
Today, along with the Humberview Group and Nancy Field of FieldWork Communications, Gears is once again committed to investing our passion and energy into developing a cycling event in support of men’s mental health to honour friends and colleagues who were unable to come out of the dark clouds and succumbed to pain and sorrow greater than most can imagine.
In conjunction with the event, we developed this site to create a conversation about mental health issues and provide hope, light and support as well as raise funds. We’ll be showcasing mental health concerns, initiatives, testimonials, coping strategies and more in the coming months. I will be sharing a few of my stories, the highs and lows of my journey, and my own personal struggle with social anxiety – so stay tuned.
Join us for “One Great Ride” – the Peloton Ride on Saturday, Sept 14th at the Milton Velodrome.
– Kevin Wallace, Founder & Co-Owner Gears Bicycle Shops and Co-Founder of the Peloton Ride for Men’s Mental Health