Pair plans 120 km bike ride to honour Inuvik nurse, raise mental health awareness

·4 min read
Matt Lee, right, and Chris Bruckner are organizing a 120-kilometre ride from Inuvik, N.W.T., to Aklavik, N.W.T., in honour of their friend Matt Hamilton. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)
Matt Lee, right, and Chris Bruckner are organizing a 120-kilometre ride from Inuvik, N.W.T., to Aklavik, N.W.T., in honour of their friend Matt Hamilton. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC - image credit)

Chris Bruckner and Matt Hamilton had known each other since February 2019.

One a paramedic and the other a nurse, the Inuvik, N.W.T., residents connected right away over working in a health profession — and their passion for cycling.

The pair even planned a special bike trip on the ice road to Aklavik, N.W.T.

But Hamilton passed away Feb. 12, at just 38.

"This is a ride to Aklavik that we had planned on doing for about two years," Bruckner said. "We are now, through the Inuvik cycling club, doing this ride in his honour, in celebration of his life."

Hamilton was a nurse from Thornton, Ont., but had been living in Inuvik off and on since 2010, working in the community as a nurse.

Hamilton was an avid biker, friends and family say.
Hamilton was an avid biker, friends and family say.(Submitted by Susanne Hamilton)

The Aklavik Icebreaker Ride for Matt and Mental Health Awareness will begin in Inuvik and take 120 kilometres to complete.

"We connected personally and professionally," said Bruckner. "We didn't actually ride together until this January and that was our first and only ride … but his memory will live on through this ride and our hearts in this community."

"No matter what I'll never forget him"

Bruckner is a paramedic who recently earned Guinness World Record breaking the previous trans-Canada solo men's cycling record. He started the Inuvik Cycling Club.

Hamilton with his wife Claire and children, Gus and Ruth.
Hamilton with his wife Claire and children, Gus and Ruth.(Submitted by Susanne Hamilton)

Bruckner said it wasn't until Hamilton's wife donated his bikes to the cycling club that he fully realized how passionate Hamilton was about biking.

"He had four bikes, and you're serious about cycling when you own four bikes," Hamilton said with a laugh.

"Matt has been a member of this community, did amazing work through the hospital … He was a pretty active guy and he would've really enjoyed this trip."

The ride is on Sunday with 10 people signed up who will ride to Aklavik on a roughly 12-hour trip, and then get a lift back to town.

This picture was taken by Hamilton's mother, Susanne, during one of her trips to visit him in the Arctic.
This picture was taken by Hamilton's mother, Susanne, during one of her trips to visit him in the Arctic.(Submitted by Susanne Hamilton)

Bruckner will be riding one of Hamilton's bikes in his honour.

Mike Lee is another co-organizer of the bike ride and he said Hamilton made an immediate impact on him.

"I first met Matt during one of our Inuvik cycling club rides, it was probably one of the coldest days we cycled," said Lee.

"Although I only met him once here, it felt like I had known him a lot longer," he said. "So when I found out he passed, it kind of rocked my world."

Susanne said her son had the biggest heart, most beautiful smile 'that would light up any room' and was a loyal friend who loved his wife Claire and young children Gus and Ruth.
Susanne said her son had the biggest heart, most beautiful smile 'that would light up any room' and was a loyal friend who loved his wife Claire and young children Gus and Ruth.(Submitted by Susanne Hamilton)

Lee said knowing that Hamilton wanted to do this ride made it clear to him that they should celebrate his life and get others to join.

The hope is that the ride will be an annual event.

For Hamilton's mom Susanne, a bike ride is a great way to honour her son, who had first got into cycling to reduce his carbon footprint and had at one point owned as many as six bikes.

"I think this is a beautiful tribute to a young man that had a very strong sense of community," she said.

"It's so Matthew."

Susanne said her son had the biggest heart, most beautiful smile "that would light up any room" and was a loyal friend who loved his wife Claire and young children Gus and Ruth.

She talked about her fond memories of driving to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., on the ice road and taking photos of the aurora with Matthew during the times she visited him in Inuvik.

"I'm so impressed by these two young men that are putting this ride together, with an emphasis on mental health awareness," she said.

"If this bike ride can shed some light on mental health issues while honouring Mathew, this is just a beautiful, beautiful gesture."