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Manitoba man raising funds for Wounded Warriors to cycle through Central Alberta

In 2021, Rob Nederlof launched 'The Prairie Thousand' - a cycling fundraiser in support of the Wounded Warriors Canada PTSD Support Dog Program. He will be coming through Central Alberta in mid-August. (Facebook photo)

A Manitoba man set on raising funds to help those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will be coming through Central Alberta next month during his cycling mission.

Started in 2021, 'The Prairie Thousand' has raised more than $91,000 for the Wounded Warriors Canada PTSD Support Dog Program, and Rob Nederlof said he will "continue doing it every year until my body won't let me."  

Originally from Calgary, Nederlof now calls Wawanesa, MB. home.

He is a sergeant with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) based at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Shilo.

A mechanic with base maintenance, he has also been on three tours of duty since he joined the CAF - one in Bosnia and two in Afghanistan.

Nederlof has since had his own experiences with PTSD through his service and is well aware of the severity of the disorder.

Currently, he's prepping for The Prairie Thousand, the fundraising mission he launched back in 2021.

Nederlof has already cycled three tours, each year notching in excess of 1,000 km.

"The first year we went from Wawanesa to Lethbridge. The next year we went from Edmonton back to Manitoba. And then last year, we went from Saskatoon to Kenora, Ontario."

This year, he's starting from CFB Edmonton heading to Calgary, and then straight through to Regina - in total, about 1,100 km.

"We leave on Aug. 11."

The team expects to arrive in Lacombe that day and head out from the city on Aug. 12 to Carstairs and then through to Strathmore, Brooks, and Medicine Hat before finishing up in Regina on Aug. 19.

Looking back, the idea to raise funds for the support dog program came about unexpectedly.

"During COVID, we weren't as busy as we normally were," said Nederlof.

"I was doing a lot of cycling at the time - going to work and back which is about 52 kilometres in a day. One day, I was off and decided to go on a bit of a longer ride. So I went to see a little town that my wife and I hadn't been to."

During a break, a fellow stopped by and started chatting.

"He said he had thought we were doing the cycling for a charity or something like that."

That conversation sparked an idea.

Nederlof was, as mentioned, very familiar with the impact of PTSD on so many.

"So I talked with some friends, and one of them suggested a cycling tour for Wounded Warriors."

He then reached out to the organization and representatives quickly offered their full support.

Since 2012, Wounded Warriors Canada has contributed more than $8 million to train service dogs and pair them with injured veterans and first responders.

"The dogs are really helpful. They pick up on (people's) moods a lot faster than you might think."

There are also operational stress intervention dogs, which play a key role in breaking down barriers and the stigma attached to mental health conversations, according to the Wounded Warriors website.

"They pave the way for people to speak freely and openly about what they’re going through. The dogs also promote the improvement of physical, social, and emotional ability in first responders. Facility dogs work with a handler who helps to direct that emotional support."

For Nederlof, the Prairie Thousand venture is deeply fulfilling on many levels.

"It's near and dear to our hearts," he said, referring to his wife Marina.

"We want to get the word out that there is help out there."

As to his own PTSD, Rob said it's something that never goes away.

And even though he hasn't had a service dog per se, he knows the benefits of having a pet and how helpful that is.

"They are great company. If it's a trained working dog, and the person they are with is having a breakdown, the dog will sense it right away and will help them get back to where they should be, and help them cope with whatever issue they are having," he explained. 

To support Nederlof, find him on Facebook at 'The Prairie Thousand' or online at Donation links are available.

"It makes me feel really good," he said of the campaign. 

"People are growing more aware of (PTSD); the word is out there. And the fact that we are seeing so much in the way of donations for this is mind-blowing to me. It makes me feel good to know there are good people out there.

"I'm very humbled by it because I can't even describe how it makes me feel."




















Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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