Andrew Kerec has launched his second ‘spine tingling’ mountain bike ride at Hartley Lifecare’s Renaissance House in Chapman – almost 4500 kilometres away from the starting point in Western Australia.
On paper it makes little logistical sense for the cross-country ride, beginning from Steep Point on WA’s west coast on Tuesday 27 June, to launch in a Canberra suburb but there is method to his madness.
Andrew will finish his 6820 kilometre ride around 6 September at his parents’ north-side house in Forde and he has long-standing links with the ACT disability accommodation support and respite care facility.
The Chapman facility itself was built by Andrew and his father Ludvig’s building company, Renaissance Homes, and owner/operator Hartley Lifecare will receive a portion of the funds raised from Andrew’s 2023 ride, just as it did with his first in 2017.
Dig a layer deeper and the Kerecs’ building company’s involvement and Andrew’s two charity rides all trace back to the same fateful day in March 2010.
“My dad, I think he’d had his second or his third midlife crisis, so he decided to become an ironman or a triathlete,” Andrew remembers.
“He was training for the Port Macquarie ironman after doing the Canberra half ironman successfully and on a Canberra bike path, just on a lazy Sunday afternoon ride, another cyclist hit him coming around a blind corner on the wrong side of the path.
“It wasn’t a major crash or anything but the other cyclist’s bike or something got caught up in dad’s helmet strap. There were no [visible] physical injuries but it damaged his spinal cord beyond current medical capacity to repair.”
In the blink of an eye, Ludvig went from being an ultra-fit 61-year-old amateur athlete and builder to a complete quadriplegic.
“Our learning curve was not just to learn how to care and create a new normal within a family of living with a quadriplegic and looking after them but also appreciating and realising over time where the shortfalls are,” Andrew says.
The “shortfalls” he observed included a lack of available specialised care, respite services and accessible housing and not enough funding dedicated to spinal cord repair and rehabilitation research.
Andrew made a promise to his father during this period to do a 5551 kilometre ride from Canberra to the Northern Territory in 2017, which raised $130,000 towards organisations tackling these issues.
“We’ve turned it into a great positive because of [dad’s] involvement and allowing me to share his story,” Andrew says.
“So [the rides are] a positive thing for him and it gives him something to live for.”
The 2023 ride is set to be more challenging than the last being more than 1200 kilometres longer (thanks to Andrew’s accountant sponsoring him on a per-kilometre basis) and with a touch of post-COVID fatigue.
But buoyed by the support of his family and friends and having already raised $102,000 of his $200,000 goal to be split between SpinalCure Australia’s research and Hartley Lifecare, Andrew remains confident.
Hartley Lifecare CEO Eric Thauvette OAM says any funds donated will go towards continuing to provide supported accommodation and respite care to around 110 clients with disabilities across 37 homes.
He also thanked Andrew for his company’s support outside of the bike rides for building the Hartley Renaissance House and another in-progress supported accommodation site in Hughes.
“By approaching his supporters and telling them, ‘this is a great organisation. Let’s get the supplies at cost’ [we get a discounted price] or sometimes people have done work pro bono,” he says.
“So we end up being able to build a house at a much reduced price and really gear the money towards the support of people with disabilities.”