Airdrie’s Cody Shepherd begins 3-month trek in Tofino

Inspired by the sudden death of his father, 25-year-old Cody Shepherd is embarking on the trip of a lifetime.

Shepherd will bike across Canada from coast to coast to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

The journey was originally supposed to be a father-son trip, but everything changed on a warm summer morning in July 2012.

“We usually go for coffee in the morning and he wasn’t answering his phone so I went to go check on him to make sure he was okay,” says Shepherd. “But he had passed away in the night from a heart attack.”Cody Shepherd wearing an “Inspire Action” hoodie, like those being sold at The Place 4 Paws, just outside of Airdrie, for his Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraiser.

Photo courtesy of Cody Shepherd 

Shepherd said his father, Brent, had a quadruple bypass a few years earlier. Since then, he was always worried about his health.

“When he wasn’t answering his phone, I kind of knew something was up,” says Shepherd.

A family in crisis

Brent’s death came just three weeks shy of his 56th birthday and one month prior to Cody’s wedding to wife Lindsay.

“He was pretty shocked, we all were. I don’t think he quite processed it at first. He looked like someone who not only just lost his dad, but also his best friend,” says Lindsay.

Lindsay says that after the tragedy, Cody went into “protect mode,” and wanted to make sure everyone else was okay.

His older sister was three months pregnant at the time and his brother was the youngest of the family, so he felt it was his responsibility to take care of everything.

Support from community

This map shows the route Shepherd plans to take on his trip. As he makes progress, his family back at home will mark it on the map, along with photos of his journey.

Photo courtesy of Cody Shepherd The Shepherds have received a lot of support after the loss of Brent, who was an active member of the Airdrie community.

Brent owned a pet boarding business called The Place 4 Paws located just outside of Airdrie.

Cody and Lindsay bought the business from him about a year before the tragedy occurred and are currently running it themselves.

Time to grieve

Shepherd will fly from Calgary to Tofino, B.C. this month. He will then start his journey en route to St. John’s, N.L. He predicts the trip will take him about three months to complete.

Shepherd has also been consulting with a nutritionist on the energy consumption needed in order to prepare his body for the long journey ahead. He said he expects to log about 8,000 kilometres on his biking trip. His goal is to ride about 80 to 150 kilometres per day.

Although Shepherd will be doing the trip alone, he will be bringing along his father’s ashes and lucky hat.

“I think he’s trying to make something good come out of his grief and really affect people,” says Lindsay.Brent’s death came just three weeks shy of his 56th birthday and one month prior to Cody’s wedding to wife Lindsay.

Photo courtesy of Cody Shepherd 

Shepherd credits his wife for fully supporting him and helping him achieve his fundraising initiatives.

“I know it’s going to be a difficult journey for him with the physical exertion and being alone and coming to terms with everything. So I wanted to take some of the pressure off of him,” says Lindsay.

Shepherd said this trip is going to be a very personal experience for him, where he can reflect on the loss of his father.

“I didn’t really have a chance to grieve or be alone with myself, so that’s what this trip is about for me,” says Shepherd.

Raising money for an important cause

Cody describes it as “love at first sight,” when he came across the bike he will ride across the country.

Photo courtesy of Cody ShepherdShepherd said he will do everything he can to help others who are going through a similar experience.

Shepherd will be accepting donations along the way for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Fundraising initiatives include “Inspire Action” hoodies and t-shirts that are also being sold at the family’s pet boarding business.

Shepherd has raised over $2,000 so far, with an end goal of $15,000.

“[The Heart and Stroke Foundation] focus a lot on making health-conscious decisions. I really like the whole healthy living thing and how important it is,” says Shepherd. “If you don’t have your health, you really don’t have anything.”

Shahr Savizi, fund development coordinator of the Heart and Stroke Foundation said that a lot of fundraisers are inspired by someone’s personal loss.

“We’re excited that he came to us, his story is very heartfelt,” says Savizi.

“We hope to decrease death rates from heart disease and stroke,” says Savizi. “It’s really good that he’s raising awareness and getting the word out there.”

Shepherd plans to track his daily progress throughout his journey on the blog, Cycle Across Canada.

mgill@cjournal.ca