The 10-year-old from Chatham is on the autism spectrum. He doesn’t understand death well, but he knew his loved ones were sad.
His grandmother Patricia Hopman died of cancer Sept. 17. He believed she’d come back to life if he did a great deed.
“His intentions were good, but the reality of it was impossible,” said his father, Jeff. “We sat him down and told him, ‘That can’t happen, but you can still help others.’ We mentioned trying to do a small fundraiser.”
AJ didn’t want to run like Terry Fox, but he could ride his bike. The goal was $100 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
AJ hit the road Saturday morning. By the time he was done, he’d raised approximately $3,000.
“He says, dead serious, ‘Now we go for a million,’” said his father, laughing.
AJ covered almost 10 kilometres. He started near his home on Chatham’s south side and finished at Gregory Drive Alliance Church on the north side.
Jeff is a civilian employee of the Chatham-Kent Police Service, so he was able to arrange a motorcycle escort from Const. Dan Clarke.
AJ stopped only once to visit teacher Rachael Middel’s home.
“That was the longest bike ride of my life,” said the Grade 5 student at Chatham Christian School.
His favourite part was going over the Parry Bridge on Keil Drive.
He was teary-eyed after the tiring and emotional trip, but he couldn’t wait to do it again.
“He loved it. He wanted to do it again next week,” Jeff said, laughing. “I said maybe next year we can do it again.”
By Sunday, the GoFundMe page for AJ’s Bike to the North for Cancer had raised more than $3,200. Another $500 in cash was given to Jeff.
“I’m pretty proud of him,” Jeff said. “It’s a cool thing.”
The GoFundMe page will remain open for a few more weeks.