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Father & Daughter Biking to CR for Charity

Costa Rica News – This motorcycle trip is about more than the thrill of the ride. Bruce Johnson and his 12-year-old daughter Holly are travelling from Wasaga Beach to Costa Rica, a journey they’re calling Motorcycle for Miracles, to fundraise for the Children’s Miracle Network and SickKids, a hospital that has done so much for their family.

costa rica motorcycle trip“People need to realize how lucky we are to have a medical facility like that so close to us,” said Bruce. “It’s completely world class, it truly is.”

Bruce and his wife, Mary, lost their first daughter, Alyssa Rae, when she was only 20 days old. Alyssa Rae was born on Nov. 17, 1998 at SickKids Hospital with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a button nose. She also had an omphalocele, meaning some of her organs were outside of her body. Despite this, Dr. Sigmund Ein managed to tuck in most of her liver and cover her heart with skin. On Nov. 29 she arrested while on a breathing tube and a CT scan later showed she had severe brain damage on top of hypoplastic lungs and her heart outside the chest cavity. She passed away in her parents’ arms on Dec. 6.

During this time, Bruce said the hospital made sure the family didn’t have to worry about any of the logistics, that they just got to spend time with their baby girl.

“They made our whole passage with Alyssa’s brief life really easy, well as easy as it can be,” he said.

Bruce and Holly hope to raise $25,000 for the Alyssa Rae Johnson Fund. All of the money raised will go to the SickKids Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network. So far they’ve raised $7,755.

Bruce and Mary are a real estate team at RE/MAX of Wasaga Beach and live in Wasaga Beach with daughters Holly and Jocelyn, age 10.

Bruce and Holly left Toronto on Nov. 4 after a send off at SickKids Hospital, and Bruce said the first week of the trip was cold and wet.

“We got out ahead of winter basically, but it was lots of long days, bundled up,” said Bruce. “Holly has about five pieces of clothing and she had all five layers on. Finally as we got just outside of Pensacola, Florida the weather broke and it got up into about 15, 20 degrees.”

He spent most of his 20s travelling by motorcycle and said getting back into it was physically challenging at first.

“Your body gets accustomed to it. I think we’re there now,” he said.

They were in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last Tuesday and had gone 2,700 kilometres, with two days off.

“I’m thinking if I can get about 400 kilometres, five days a week that would be perfect,” said Bruce.

He said they’re hoping to arrive in Costa Rica by the second week of December, joined by Mary and Jocelyn for the holidays.

The idea to go to Costa Rica was Holly’s suggestion and Bruce has strong ties there.

“I had taken her 12-year-old cousin on a trip,” said Bruce. “I took him to the Arctic on a really long motorcycle trip and Holly had been hearing stories about the trip for years. She just blurted it out when she was 10. She said ‘would you take me on a trip?’ I thought she’d want to go for a weekend to Montreal or something cute like that.”

Bruce and Mary met on his trip to the Arctic where she was on a canoeing expedition with friends. They were staying at the same campground and eventually decided to take a 34-month-long biking trip together to the world’s southernmost town, Ushuaia, Argentina. They spent months exploring Costa Rica thanks to Bruce’s friend and former travel partner, the late Oswaldo von Breymann, a BMW motorcycles ambassador and travel legend.

Bruce and Mary now own a home in Ojochal, Costa Rica, and Mary said for them, “Costa Rica represents love and the freedom to explore.”

Holly is doing homeschooling and homework projects from her Grade 7 teacher along the way and using Skype to update her class when she has access to a wireless network. Bruce said she’s loving every minute of it.

“There’s not a word invented yet that describes how proud I am of my 12-year-old daughter,” said Bruce. “She’s so tough. There hasn’t been a peep of discontent from her.”

Bruce and Holly will be touring the Texas Children’s Hospital as part of their trip and have been staying with friends and family en route.

“Last night we were wandering around Baton Rouge at 10 o’clock looking for a place to stay, and went through a little restaurant with Wifi just to warm up,” said Bruce. “I looked at Holly and said, ‘Is this awesome or what?’ She goes, ‘You’re the best’.”

RE/MAX gave Bruce an expedition flag for the trip and he’s been getting RE/MAX agents who donated to the Alyssa Rae Johnson fund to sign it. The Wasaga Beach RE/MAX has donated more than $172,000 to SickKids Hospital and the CMN over the years.

Holly underwent eye surgery at the SickKids Hospital this year and Bruce said he’s always drawn back to the neo-natal intensive care unit where they lost Alyssa.

“Every time I’m there it’s almost like I’m magically transported. I just find myself standing in front of the door where she passed away.”

After Holly, Jocelyn, and Mary fly back to Canada, Bruce will continue the trip up the other side of Central America, arriving in Las Vegas in March for the International RE/MAX Convention.

For the Johnsons, this trip represents their appreciation for everyone at SickKids Hospital, their desire to live in the present, and their remembrance of Alyssa, who would have turned 15 on Sunday.

“I realized how much the hospital has meant to us,” said Bruce. “All three of my children have been in that hospital. If you ask almost any parent in our area, somebody knows someone who’s had a kid in SickKids Hospital.”

For updates on their trip check out Holly’s blog at

By Whitney Neilson, The Enterprise-Bulletin

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