A journey that began three years ago will be completed in the next week or so. And for Kelly and Armand Jerome, the purpose behind the adventure has changed, it’s become more personal.
The husband and wife team from Beausejour, Manitoba started planning their trek by Red River cart, along the Dawson Trail back in 2020 in honour of Manitoba’s 150th birthday celebration. Then given global circumstances, that ride was never even started.
Then a few months ago, they met a lady who recently immigrated from Ukraine, whose story stirred up emotions in them that needed to be acknowledged. Kelly explains.
“The lady told us that her son, 19-year-old Alex, was taking care of orphans and seniors in their community in Ukraine. We started searching the news wondering what was happening to the children and it kind of broke our hearts. That’s when we realized there were so many orphans. We also heard that Russians were kidnapping children and taking them back to Russia and you know, trying to change them from being Ukrainian to Russians.”
“So, we just decided that we're going to do the Red River Metis Ride for Hope in support of Ukrainian orphans, and their communities who are trying to protect them because they need to try to get them back home.”
That’s how the "Ride for Hope" was born.
The Jerome's have been raising money over the past several months, not only to help cover the cost of the ride but also to collect donations to send to Ukraine.
“They need funding for recreation centres where these children are staying. Funding needs to go to families that have fostered them, who are taking them in, to keep them safe until the families can either be found or their fathers return from fighting in the war to claim their children. It’s just a tremendous plight and it's not getting any better at this point, so we're hoping we raise enough for that.”
Armand says he and Kelly had always intended on finishing the trek.
“It was always in our heart that we would finish it, and this gave us our new hope, to continue under a new name and under a new cause.”
The Jerome’s say the ride will consist of three Red River carts, several wagons, and a large group of trail riders.
The Ride for Hope began on Friday, May 19, with riders, horses, and carts arriving at Sophie’s Restaurant along Hwy 11, near Hadashville.
“Restaurant owners, Tim and Lucy Jones, have very graciously allowed us to use their 40-acre field to set up. We officially depart for the first day on the trail on Tuesday, May 23 in the morning.”
Kelly says, the general public will not be able to watch the ride itself, as it will be along the Dawson Trail. However, the group expects to arrive in Richer, Manitoba on Saturday, May 27 where they will set up camp for a few days and enjoy the festivities planned by the Richer Metis Local.
Then they will head back on the trail, their goal is to arrive in Lorette on Thursday, June 1, where that town will also be hosting a three-day family fun weekend, including a parade that the “Ride for Hope” group hopes to be a part of.
Their last official day of the trek is on Sunday, June 4 when they’ll be making their way to the “Centre of Canada” along the TransCanada Hwy #1.
Kelly shares her personal connection to the ride.
“I'm Ukrainian, so this really hits home, but for Armand, and the Metis people, this also really hits home because the absconding of children is very personal, especially to the Metis and to First Nations. So it's very personal for both of us and we're doing the best we can for sure.”
The Jerome’s are very grateful for the support and excitement regarding the ride.
“It just seems to be extra blessed or something, because things are falling into place so well, and people are so excited and so supportive, and we're just quite overwhelmed with the response.”
When asked what the couple hopes on-lookers will take away from hearing, seeing or being a part of this event, Kelly says,
“I'm hoping that they remember that there are Ukrainian children that are frightened and scared, and some are being taken away from their homes and to please donate.”
“We also want people to know how significant this is for us because when the Manitoba 150 ride was torn away, that was two years of our lives of planning that just took an abrupt halt. And you know, we never thought we'd be able to complete it, and so for us, it's very personal.”
“Seeing so many people we haven’t seen in three years. It’s going to be like putting family all together again and just the sense of community and just being surrounded by all that support and community connection. I hope that they remember that.”
Armand notes, “The big thing about this is that we need to understand how important it is to be free. We're so blessed we live in a country like this. You know, and sure there were earlier problems and whatever, but there's reconciliation and there's things going on now, so yeah, constant awareness.”
“Value your freedom", he says, "and then look at the rest of the world, how some places don't have what we have and maybe this is going to spread, maybe to different countries, they'll be seeing certain things like this on the news or whatever maybe in a small way we could, you know, change certain people's minds. You never know.”
The Ride for Hope is taking place from May 19 to June 4. The group will travel 60 miles (96 kms) down the Dawson Trail and will end in the community of Lorette on June 1, with a stop in Richer on May 27.
Click the link to make a donation to "Ride for Hope".