Cowboys ride to fight child abuse

Riding west into the sunset has been the staple ending to many a classic western. A pair of Edmonton cowboys are planning to change that direction, and won’t stop until they reach the Atlantic.

Alick Brooke and Guy Bourassa are preparing to travel across the country on horseback, bringing attention to the plight of the abused as they go. Their cross-Canada ride was planned in conjunction with The Angel Express, a non-profit group dedicated to shedding light on the impacts of child exploitation and abuse.

“There’s a lot of abuse out there,” said 46-year-old Bourassa, a foster parent to 35 kids over the past six years. “You hear about who commits the crimes and not the kids. It follows them for the rest of their lives.”

According to Canada’s Department of Justice (DoJ), statistics of sexual abuse directed at children are difficult to gauge as instances often go unreported. The DoJ website gives numbers collected in 1998, saying one in 10 investigations of child abuse “involved sexual abuse as the primary reason for the investigation.” The report goes on to say sexual abuse was confirmed in more than a third of those cases, a rate of 0.86 cases per 1,000 children.

“Abuse is not something that you see. It’s something you live,” said Bourassa.

“It’s an epidemic in Canada,” said 60-year-old Brooke, who spent almost 40 years working with children’s services. “These kids need our help. They need to be assured that if they come out and tell somebody they’re going to get help. They don’t have to be ashamed of whatever happened.”

He said the public have to play a role as well by pushing politicians to support funding programs to help those who have suffered child abuse.

“I’d like to see a change in the attitudes of the public towards this issue. It’s an obligation that we owe these kids because basically we failed these kids by not protecting them.”

The ride, set to begin next Wednesday, is planned to go from Edmonton to Halifax and Brooke has set his fundraising goal at a million dollars in support of groups like Little Warriors and Childfind. They would ultimately like to build a ranch in Edmonton for victims of abuse.

Both riders have been around horses for more than 15 years — Bourassa even worked as a professional rodeo contestant — and they have known each other for the past two decades.

The entire trip spans roughly 8,000 km and will follow the Trans-Canada Highway. Brooke admitted the ride is a long one for the animals and they plan on letting the horses dictate how far they go each day. A rough plan has them spanning about 44 km a day, getting them into the Nova Scotia capital by early August.

A support vehicle has been donated to give them a place to bed down and a third horse will be coming along to offer the beasts of burden some reprieve when needed. They will be accepting donations and food along the way to ease their costs.

Brooke said he anticipates attracting other riders to join them for short distances along the way and they have put out an open invitation on their website — www.theangelexpress.com — to anyone wanting to join them.

“That way I don’t get tired of Guy so much,” joked Brock.

The pair are starting their journey at a truck stop on Hwy. 16 in Sherwood Park. Anyone wanting to donate or learn more about their trip are encouraged to check out the website.

Source: Edmonton Sun

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