Donny Little is determined: he can get from Kenora to Fort Frances in one day, from Fort Frances to Dryden the next, and from Dryden right back to Kenora on the third.
And he’s doing it just to prove that he can.
“The story—‘The Little Engine That Could’—I’ve remembered it all my life,” Little reminisced. “ ‘I think I can, I think I can...’”
“Then you get there, sit back with a cold Coke in your hand and say, ‘I thought I could.’”
Fifteen years ago, Little was in a car accident that left him with brain damage.
Now, for the third year in a row, he’s biking between Dryden and Kenora to raise awareness of people with brain damage. This is the first time Fort Frances was on the agenda of the “Donny Little Bike Tour”.
He says he wants to make employers and people realize that people with brain damage can still do many things.
“I can remember people saying, ‘he’s too stupid, he won’t understand,’” he said. So he’s taking his message on the road.
Little’s been training for nearly six weeks now. It’s a strenuous schedule: he bikes for hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and does weight lifting Wednesday and Saturday. And he goes out, rain or shine.
Sunday, he said, he goes to church. “It’s the day of rest,” he laughed.
Little followed the Terry Fox coverage on TV before the accident in 1985, and Rick Hansen afterwards. He said they were an inspiration to him.
“I want to raise awareness, try new things, try the impossible and never give up,” he said.
Both Littles remember when the accident happened in 1985.
“Two different doctors said he was going to die, the next one said he was going to be a vegetable, the next said he’d be in a coma all his life,” Don Little Sr. said. “He proved them wrong.”
“I’m a Scotsman,” Donny Little laughed. “I’m stubborn.”
The idea to bike between the three towns was born three years ago. Little mentioned the idea to a friend in a support group in Kenora, Yvette Fizli, and the tour was launched.
“I mentioned the idea to her and she took it upon herself to do it,” Little recalls. “She got the whole thing going, trained me and we head out.”
At first, even the trip from Kenora to Dryden seemed huge.
“The first year, he wasn’t sure he could do it,” Little’s father said. “Now it’s no problem.”
Besides biking, Little spends his time fishing, camping, cooking and gardening in the summer time, and coaching hockey teams in the winter. He’s also part of Toastmasters, and volunteers at a senior citizen’s home.
“I’m very much a people person,” he said. “I enjoy meeting people.”
Next year, Little is looking at expanding the tour again: this time to Thunder Bay.
“I’m proud of him, I really am,” Donny Little Sr. said. “He’s got a great heart.”