It’s through the generosity of community fundraisers that helps Mates4Mates to continue providing its vital services to veterans and their families who have been impacted by service.
This was one of the main reasons why Chris decided he was going to ride almost 170km along the Australian Remembrance Trail in April 2022 – starting in Belgium and finishing in France.
Between 1916 and 1918, some 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front. More than 46,000 died and 134,000 were wounded or captured during this time. The Australian Remembrance Trail links the most important sites for Australians along the Western Front. It includes battlefields, cemeteries, memorials, and museums.
Living in northern France and less than 30km from Ypres, Belgium where the trail begins, Chris, with his own background in Defence, contemplated how he could honour those who had made sacrifices for their fellow Australians and promote the Sir John Monash Centre post the COVID-19 restrictions we all endured.
Deciding he wanted to combine his passion for fundraising for mental health with his love for bike riding, Chris started training for his bike ride across the Australian Remembrance Trail to raise funds for Mates4Mates.
“Each ANZAC Day, a dawn service is held at the Australian National Memorial which is in northern France. I thought this bike ride before ANZAC Day was a great opportunity to not only raise funds for those who served our country, but to stop and reflect on mateship and sacrifice at a variety of cemeteries and memorials along the way.”
“It was this notion of ‘mateship’ that made me decide that Mates4Mates was the right charity to raise funds for to help provide support to those finding a way forward from service-related injuries.”
Time to hit the road
After training indoors for three months to combat the cold winter and wet and windy days, Chris started his ride in Ypres, Belgium at 6:15am. He had 27 waypoints along the way which were all Commonwealth war graves and memorials leading him to the Sir John Monash Centre, collocated with the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
With a range of local riders, WW1-focused museums, and other commemorative stakeholders invested in his ride, Chris managed to make new friends along the way, reminding him of the reasons he was riding, at times, uphill along a two-lane truck route.
After 8.5 hours of riding, plus an extra two hours of breaks to pause and reflect at memorials, Chris reached the Sir John Monash Centre, beating his fundraising goal he initially set out to reach.
“My leisurely ride, although taxing, is nothing compared to the horrors those troops we commemorate each year would have faced. I felt like my peaceful ride overlooking farmland was a jarring juxtaposition to those bursts of horror and carnage.”
Chris is already trying to organise another ride for 2023, this time a group ride so his Australian friends and European colleagues can join in.
From all of us at Mates4Mates, we’d like to say a big thank you to Chris for his generous fundraising efforts. These funds will help Mates4Mates continue to actively change the lives of veterans and their families impacted by service.