Riding for a just cause

One of the stars of the CBC television show Heartland rolled into the city as part of the Cruise with a Cause initiative.

Graham Wardle

Graham Wardle

One of the stars of the CBC television show Heartland rolled into the city as part of the Cruise with a Cause initiative.

Graham Wardle, who plays Ty Borden, was joined by Amber Marshall (Amy Fleming), Shaun Johnston (Jack Bartlett) and Alisha Newton (Georgie Crawley), and fans lined up for photos and autographs with the cast.

An estimated 100-plus people were waiting at the Lakeside Villa Inn & Suites on Aug. 29. Among them were Marissa and Aliya Friesen of Abbotsford, who were the first in line, and feeling slightly starstruck about meeting members of the long-running show.

They said they’ve been dedicated fans and when they found out they’d have a chance to get an autograph and have their picture snapped with the stars, they had trouble containing their excitement.

“We love the show,” they said. “We can’t believe we get to meet them in person.”

Wardle said it’s the second year for the event, which is a six-day motorcycle ride across southern B.C. and the Lower Mainland.

Wardle said the idea came about when he wanted to do a motorcycle ride and a friend suggested participating in a ride that would benefit a charity.

“That created a whole new paradigm and way of thinking about this ride,” he said. “We wanted to start up a conversation. We also said, right from the very start, we don’t want to fight anything. We don’t want to resist anything. We want to be creating what we want.

“With prostate cancer (last year), it wasn’t about fighting cancer or beating cancer. It was about staying healthy, getting tested and spreading awareness. That’s something you can stand for as opposed to standing against.”

This year’s charity of choice for the cruise is Sophie’s Place, a Vancouver-based child advocacy centre, providing specialized services to physically, mentally and sexually abused children up to age 18.

The charity was named after Sophie Tweed-Simmons, the daughter of Gene Simmons of the band KISS and actress Shannon Tweed.

“Abuse is something that’s taboo,” said Wardle. “We don’t like to talk about it. It’s kind of pushed under the rug.

“Myself and two of the other riders are survivors of abuse and we thought this is something personal to us, and we’ve moved on and been able to give back and live great lives.”

He said it’s essential to have resources such as Sophie’s Place that are available to children and teenagers, to assist in mending trust barriers and other issues that exist due to abuse.

“We want to help grow that, so it can spread and there can be more resources for people in that scenario,” said Wardle.

He said cast members had to juggle their schedules in order to participate in the cruise but noted that it’s been a great team-building experience for those involved, and he’s looking forward to doing it again next year.

“The plan is to build a strong foundation and stay focused on our core values, creating that world that we want and bringing conversation and light to those areas that may be overlooked, or are hard to talk about,” he said.

The tour concluded with a fundraiser gala in Surrey Aug. 30.