Couple chronicles cross Canada odyssey

December 02, 2004, vol. 31, no. 7
By Howard Fluxgold

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For Loretta and Marv Wideen, fulfilling a dream to cycle across Canada wasn't enough.

The emeritus professor of education and his wife wanted to champion a cause along the way so they decided to promote awareness of schizophrenia while they travelled.

“We chose schizophrenia because it was the illness that affected me most while I worked at the hospital,” says Loretta, a retired nurse clinician who worked with the psychiatric department at Royal Columbian hospital in New Westminster for 17 years. “It is one of the most neglected diseases.”

Schizophrenia is a brain disease that is the result of physical biochemical changes in the brain. It afflicts one in 100 people worldwide. In Canada, about 290,000 suffer from this treatable disease which often strikes those between the age of 16-25.

While cycling 7000 kilometres from Victoria to St. John's in 1999 the couple carried signs and handed out cards urging anyone they met to support their cause. Initially they suggested donations, but a chance meeting with two members of the local schizophrenia society in Thunder Bay changed their focus.

“The people in Thunder Bay advised us to try raising awareness rather than money. So I began to measure results in amount of publicity we could get,” recalls Marv. A raft of newspaper clippings from local and national papers along with radio and television interviews attest to their success.

However, still not satisfied, the couple spent the last four years writing a book about their adventure. Called Retired and Still Rolling, it contains a chapter titled Cycling for a Cause that recounts some of their conversations about schizophrenia with people they met along the way. “One of the reasons we are anxious to promote the book,” says Marv, “is that people who read it can learn more about the disease and its impact on families.”

Once they have made their costs from the self-published book, they plan to share the proceeds with the Canadian Schizophrenia Society. The book is available at SFU bookstores and other off-campus booksellers.

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