17,400 miles, 15 countries and 1 wild bear: A Re/Max agent's inspiring charity motorbike ride

From the Arctic Circle to Argentina, Bruce Johnson set out Aug. 1 to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network

A charity motor bike ride from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of Argentina is not for the faint of heart, but for Re/Max agent Bruce Johnson, a franchise hall-of-fame inductee with Re/Max of Wasaga Beach in Ontario, Canada, it’s well worth a six-month sabbatical.

The way he sees it, people need to experience fund raisers in real pain before they dig into their pockets — and since the beginning of the 17,400-mile journey, on Aug. 1, there’s been no shortage of agony.

Icy and wet in the Arctic Circle, the first day of the journey was the toughest, he said, but shortly after that, he and his 17-year-old daughter, Holly, were chased by a bear.

Bruce Johnson with daughter Holly

“We want to reach the people who don’t normally give,” he said, talking to Inman via Skype from Dawson City, Yukon in Canada.

Johnson and his daughter are making the sacrifice as part of the Motorcycle for Miracles journey, which aims to raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization dedicated to funding children’s hospitals in the U.S. and Canada.

Johnson is being supported by his wife, Mary, and younger daughter Jocelyn from back home and his sister and nephew, who run the Re/Max office in Wasaga Beach.

The “Ends of the Earth Ride” might seem like a lonely journey through 15 countries, but the father-daughter pair are being accommodated by good-natured supporters most nights.

Meanwhile, numerous Re/Max colleagues in the U.S. and Mexico have committed to riding with Johnson alongside his 2007 BMW R1200GS bike during swaths of the voyage.

A map of Canada, where the voyage begins

The Johnson family has launched a support system called “Champion Agents” to help along the way. So far 64 agents in Canada and the U.S. have signed up, with an unlimited number of helpers being sought in the U.S. and beyond to assist during the journey.

These Champion Agents are required to commit to donating a minimum of $2,000 to the cause and are doing all kinds of other things to assist the Johnsons on their journey. One Champion Agent, for example, funded their flight to the Northern Territories to start their mammoth ride. Some are making enormous personal donations, his wife Mary said.

Meanwhile, Re/Max’s headquarters in Denver, Colorado, where Johnson hopes to arrive during the first week of September, is helping the Johnsons identify more potential Champion Agents and affiliates on their route to host he and Holly for the night.

There is a personal story to this remarkable charity drive, which Johnson hopes will raise as much as $200,000. Johnson and Mary lost a little girl, Alyssa Rae, 20 days after she was born in 1998 and were touched by the treatment they received at their local SickKids Hospital. Their other two daughters have also been patients there.

While some agents would balk at taking six months off, Johnson said his family members at the brokerage are stepping up to deal with any clients. Spring, he said, is the busiest time of year for his vacation- and second-home clients, some of whom have chipped into the cause.

The bike, a 2007 BMW R1200GS

“We’ve had thousands and thousands of dollars from clients,” Johnson said. “We have a really beautiful group of people we deal with.”

Johnson said he was heartened by support he received from Re/Max CEO Adam Contos, whom he chatted with last week during a Facebook Live session. The franchise, now in the midst of its annual Month of Miracles charity drive, is a supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network.

“It’s not platitudes,” said Johnson of his charitable streak, which he said has made him a better agent. “We become better people.”

Email Gill South.