by Dave Warner
Riders from Journey Along the Erie Canal 2019 stopped in Little Falls Sunday afternoon at Rotary Park, and Alan Vincent was waiting for them as he has for the last five years.
John Robinson is the quadruple amputee that was riding with the group and he has led a team that has hand-cycled across New York State 375 miles along the Erie Canal. His goal has been to raise awareness as to the ability within all people with disabilities.
Vincent has been involved in Parks and Trails New York for years and in bringing groups of bike riders through the City. He said, “In fact, this Friday, we’re going to have about 600 riders here and that’s quite an operation.”
“I”ve known John for five years now, and he’s been instrumental in getting this going. I’ve made sure that I’ve been down here each year to great them,” he said.
Robinson’s day job is being the CEO of a company called Our Ability. They are a 501c3 organization dedicated to inspiring individuals with disabilities to achieve their dreams through education and employment as well as to educate able-bodied individuals about the differences in ability around them.
Fifty weeks out of the year, that’s all he works on. The other two are spent cycling the canal.
Robinson’s team of six people pulled into Little Falls at about 3 pm after cycling more than 48 miles on that day’s leg of the journey. They had lost a few people due to illness and the beginning of the Cycle the Erie event which was starting as well.
“We had a great group in Rochester that met us, a great group in Buffalo and another in Wayne County, so we’ve done pretty well,” he said. “I’m very happy.”
The group began their journey on July 1st and have 2 1/2 days of cycling left to reach their destination. They are going to cycle 40 miles today and then split the remaining amount into two 25 mile rides.
“We started this in 2013. My wife Andrea challenged me to do it as I had just learned to hand-cycle. Pretty quickly, we realized there were disability service providers and families with people with disabilities that wanted to see us. So, the goal now, is to get as many people involved in whatever they want to do,” stated Robinson.
“They can do a first mile, part of the canal challenge, or education and employment, that’s what we’re trying to inspire people to do,” he said.
He is also working with transition programs in high schools, all over the state to give people with disabilities the opportunity to work.
He said, “That’s the day job, and this is the fun part, although my shoulders are killing me right now. The day job is to get people up and out and doing something.”
This year the ride was tougher for Robinson, as they had condensed the ride by one day, and his friend Doug Hamlin, who is another handicapped rider, was not with him this year.
“We sort of inspired each other, and it has been hard to be the only person with a disability on this trip. I think I relied more on him than I realized, emotionally,” said Robinson.
“The support group has been great, the Canal Corporation and the Erie Canal National Heritage Committee has been great – I can’t say enough about what they’ve done.”
In the future, Robinson wants to see local groups have one-day events that inspire people with disabilities to take up the challenge along the Canal. “If you’re Wayne ARC, you take it and do it – do ten miles on the Canal. Then they could raise the money for themselves and do what they needed with it.”
Robinson feels like he’s brought enough awareness to the event and that he doesn’t have to do the whole thing by himself anymore. “We’ve met great people along the way – people that you look forward to seeing every year.”
He’s going to reach out to each community that has been strong along the way and see what can be done in the future. “I think the Canal Corporation, more than anything, wants people using their section of the canal, and these kinds of events are perfect for it.”
The group will leave out this morning at about 8:30 am from Rotary Park. If you’d like to find out more or donate, their website is https://www.ourability.com/