While on trades training last year Craftsman Maxwell Gower, 2 Service Battalion found he had time on his hands while he waited for his wife and daughter to join him in Petawawa.
A cyclist since the age of four, Gower thought Ottawa Valley families would benefit from engaging in healthy cycling activities so in his spare time he started the Petawawa Family Cycling Club (PFCC).
Gower used to work for correctional services, but comes from an Air Force family. His father, a retired Chief Warrant Officer, encouraged him to join the military.
“I love the Ottawa Valley. We have a strong community. We’re like a big family. I wanted to do something for the people here,” explained Gower, co-founder and volunteer services co-ordinator for the Petawawa Family Cycling Club.
The PFCC exists to promote cycling in all its forms, to support active families by following a routine biking schedule from April to September, and to actively serve the community. The club meets the first Tuesday of every month at the Petawawa Public Library, and every other Tuesday night at a local bicycle shop aptly called Gear Heads.
The success of the club is based on its inclusiveness and the philosophies Gower and the other founding members put in place. The group is open to anyone who would like to join, accepting all ages and stages of riders, from infants in bike trailers to seniors.
Each week families come out with bike trailers, Trail Gators, children on bikes with training wheels, BMX, mountain and race bikes. Membership in the club is free, and there is no charge to participate in organized rides. For Gower, the objective is seeing families spend healthy active time together.
A strong supporter of youth Gower is a leader in his church community too, running youth groups and teaching Sunday school. He believes youth can be tremendous role models.
Teens in the PFCC are given volunteer responsibilities like marshaling riders through the streets and trails of the Ottawa Valley. Gower also encourages teens to mentor younger riders. While teens offer advice, newer riders develop their riding skills.
To ensure the men and women in barracks could participate club members found 10 adult bikes and fixed and cleaned them. Now, instead of spending evenings alone, the military members have a chance to meet new people, get some exercise and integrate into the community on bikes they borrow from the PFCC.
Club members also cycle together with the purpose of raising funds or awareness for other community organizations.
The club encourages PFCC members to be part of the Petawawa Community Policing Bicycle Safety Rodeo taking place on April 25. The very popular bike rodeo has been a part of the Petawawa community for over 25 years, and Gower felt the club’s participation was a great community development opportunity.
Another upcoming initiative is Pedal Forward Petawawa! on May 8.
“Pedal Forward is an event for all ages, and the club is really excited about it because it’s our first big bike ride of the 2015 season. In the spirit of Clara’s Big Ride, we’ll be raising mental health awareness. After the ride we’re organizing a barbecue at the library,” said Gower.
Gower, members of the club and other local organizations are also working on a system to get bikes to children who need them. They are considering taking donations of gently used bicycles, fixing and cleaning them up and giving them a new home.
According to Gower, it can be difficult to access the kids who need bikes as they have to self-identify by contacting the club so the club can help them out.
Aside from bringing his leadership and organizational skills to the table Gower works hard to promote the club on social media. He has documented the club’s development taking still shots and videos he uses on Youtube to promote the PFCC and to promote the businesses that generously sponsor the club’s rides.
Gower has been overwhelmed by the tremendous support of local businesses.
“I cannot believe how many generous people have offered to sponsor us,” said Gower.
Gower’s enthusiasm for the Petawawa community is infectious. He would be very happy to see family cycling clubs across the country at all garrisons, bases, and wings. He is more than willing to speak to anyone who would like to start up a club in their local area.
He says his formula is easy, find amazing volunteers and fantastic sponsors and watch the club grow. The Petawawa Family Cycling Club has been operating for one year and by all accounts is a tremendous success because one young soldier took the initiative and believed in his community.
To learn more about the Petawawa Family Cycling Club please visit their website.