Meet The Riders

  • Brandon Smith
    Brandon SmithCoordinator, Residence Life & Education (Ryerson University)

    I’m riding to bring awareness and break down barriers and stigma regarding holistic well-being and mental health, which touches my work life and impacts all of our lives in some degree. I feel like there is a new awareness regarding this topic and needs we are hearing about on our campuses and in the media, and my hope is this bike ride can start a new conversation about what we – as people, professionals and Canadians – can do to empower folks to take a stand and ask for help. I’m excited to take on this personal challenge and give this opportunity my all.

  • Cassie Anton
    Cassie AntonLeadership Development Facilitator (Ryerson University)

    I’m riding to push myself. I’m riding to support my team. I’m riding to participate in good mental wellness & physical health practices as I prepare for the ride itself. Most of all, I’m riding to raise awareness about Mental Health — an area of well-being that I have seen impact and even take the lives of students and community members. I’m riding so that mental health challenges can be acknowledged, supported, prioritized, destigmatized, and overcome.

  • Cathy Nguyen
    Cathy NguyenEvents & Partnerships Specialist (Ryerson University)

    Life is full of challenges. Some challenges should be difficult, like riding 500 km on a bicycle. Finding support for mental health issues shouldn’t be a challenge at all, but it is. That’s why I am riding.

  • Ian Crookshank
    Ian CrookshankDirector, Housing and Residence Life (Ryerson University)

    I began working in Student Affairs because of some fantastic experiences in Residence Life during my undergrad at Wilfrid Laurier. Over the last 14 years, I have worked on 3 other university campuses supporting students in various capacities. While campus culture was different in each of those spaces, one of the things that was consistently an issue was mental health. In recent years I have evolved my thinking on this subject recognizing the importance of activity in my own wellbeing. I ride so that our students can thrive during good times and struggle during hard times free of stigma.

  • Ian Ingles
      Ian InglesOperations Manager, Career Centre (Ryerson University)

      I am looking forward to the physical challenge and the chance to spend time with my colleagues in Student Affairs. The cause we are riding for is an important one (Youth mental health) and it is important to bring light to this issue.

    • Jen Gonzales
      Jen GonzalesDirector, Student Life (Ryerson University)

      My mother passed away after a 2 year battle with Leukemia in July 2016. During the first Road to CACUSS experience, I was dealing with the very real anxiety of losing her, as well as the pressure of of being a caregiver. Looking back, it was an experience where I practiced resilience to support her and my family. As I swim through the grief process, I have encountered my most challenging moments of sadness and depression. Simultaneously, my will to live life fully is the strongest it has ever been. I am riding to support my own mental wellness while empathizing greatly with the challenge higher education poses our students.

    • Kait Taylor-Asquini
      Kait Taylor-AsquiniCoordinator, Leadership Development & Co-Curricular Recognition (Ryerson University)

      One of the most difficult transitions I’ve made has been from a student athlete to a working professional. From ages 12 to about 23, I had a regimented workout schedule that was focused on achieving my athletic goals. Since then, I’ve been searching for the next opportunity to train for something that was going to challenge me both mentally and physically. The ride to Ottawa has provided me with this and the chance to fundraise for a cause that directly impacts our students was a perfect fit.

    • Laura Girz
      Laura GirzPsychologist (Ryerson University)

      To raise money for mental health and have fun.

    • Troy Murray
      Troy MurraySponsorship & Fundraising Officer (Ryerson University)

      Why I wish I could ride:

      In October 2016 I attempted my first marathon. Unfortunately I collapsed after 33KM and spent the next 10 days in the hospital, six of which were in ICU. I used this ride as motivation for my road to recovery. Although the doctors have advised me not to participate as a rider, I’m excited to support this journey as a member of the road crew. This experience has reminded me that wellness is a lot more than just being physically fit. This setback has also been a test to my mental well-being. And that’s why jack.org is a perfect partner for this ride. We all fall down at some point, and that’s okay. What’s important is that we know there are people there to support you and help you get back on your feet.

    • Lauren Goodman
      Lauren GoodmanCounsellor (Ryerson University)

      Thank you so much to everyone who donated and helped me more than double my fundraising goal. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected injury, I’m no longer able to ride my bike to Ottawa for the Road to CACUSS. Please consider supporting one of my colleagues in their fundraising efforts! I heard about the Road to CACUSS on one of my first weeks as a counsellor at Ryerson and knew immediately that I wanted to sign up. I saw this as a great way to get to know my co-workers, a goal to help me commit to a regular exercise routine (a self-care strategy I’m trying to get better at prioritizing!); and, above all, an opportunity to support the amazing work of jack.org. I can’t wait to get going on this ride!

    • Mark Atia
        Mark AtiaStudent Conduct Officer (Ryerson University)

        The Jack.org is a wonderful organization that I am happy to support through this ride. On a personal level, it will be a great opportunity to test my strength and mental resilience through this physical activity while doing so with great colleagues.

      • Rachel Barreca
        Rachel BarrecaManager, Campus Engagement (Ryerson University)

        I am on the Road Crew, supporting our riders as they pedal away. I chose to do this because I knew I wasn’t physically strong enough to do the ride, but I want to support this important cause. In many ways, my role on the Road Crew mirrors the work I have done to support student success throughout my Student Affairs career. There is also a lot of rich metaphor in knowing my limits, taking care of myself so I can help others, and finding my own way to succeed while also helping the team succeed.

      • Rick Ezekiel
        Rick EzekielDirector of Research, Assessment & Planning ; Student Experience (Western University)

        Did you know that 3 out of 4 young people who struggle with mental illness never reach out for help? I want to help change that. This ride supports Jack.org: Canada’s only national youth-led movement to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. In partnership with Jack.org, I want to help bring greater awareness to mental health initiatives on our campus, encouraging others to think, talk, listen, and take care of their mental health in a different way: A way that is free from stigma that keeps many from getting help when needed.

      • Samantha DeBoer
        Samantha DeBoerISS and UHIP Administrator (Ryerson University)

        I am riding to demonstrate to youth in post-secondary education that we care about their mental health and well-being. Through fundraising and riding, I want to promote the importance of mental health and well-being among my family, friends, and peers. I’m also riding as a personal physical challenge to be able to successfully train for the event and complete the entire 475km ride. Lastly, I’m riding to join the amazing team of Student Affairs professionals taking on this challenge!

      • Sarah Thompson
        Sarah ThompsonPsychologist (Ryerson University)

        Mental health is important to me. I work with students who are thinking about suicide. I know that thoughts of suicide can, do, and will pass, and I know that spreading hope and accurate information about mental health is important. I also love cycling. For me, this is the perfect way to bring awareness to something I’m passionate about, while also creating space and time to ‘walk the talk’ and focus on my own physical and mental well-being as well.

      • Allan Macdonald
          Allan MacdonaldDirector, Student Health and Wellness

          I wish I could ride, but life has gotten in the way so I’m excited to be part of the road crew for this epic adventure. Taking care of mind, body, spirit has always been an important aspect of my personal and professional life, and I seek out opportunities to support causes that raise awareness through physical activity, hard work, and sacrifice. It will be an honour to support this incredible team as they ride to raise awareness around mental health and well-being and raise funds for Jack-org.