family-rides-against-drug-addictionDeb Rielly and Gavin Slavin, left in bunch, will be riding from Esperance to Perth as part of the Kari’s Tour De Freedom 1000 Bike Ride, to raise funds and awareness for a drug and rehabilitation clinic in Western Australia.

By Mitch Guy

BROTHER and sister duo Gavin Slavin and Deb Rielly love cycling and keeping fit.
But when they tackle 1000km of terrain in the Western Australian heat at the end of the month, they will be riding to make a difference, inspired by someone very close to their hearts.
The pair will be participants in the Kari’s Tour De Freedom 1000 Bike Ride, an event which aims to raise funds and awareness for Teen Challenge WA’s Grace Academy by riding from Esperance to Perth over six days.
The Grace Academy is the largest youth residential rehabilitation and training program in WA, offering men and women aged 16 and over a teaching program leading to freedom from drug and alcohol dependence and other life control problems.
Deb, from Wonthaggi, was introduced to the event three years ago by Archies Creek’s Rick and Mez Oldham, who will also participate in this year’s event.
The fundraiser is an invitation only event and only 35 cyclists are chosen from the selection process.
Deb said last year’s event raised more than $400,000 for Team Challenge.
“The first night we go out to the Team Challenge Academy and we meet the people out there,” she said.
“Every pedal of the bike ride you’re thinking of these people who are suffering, who are trying really hard to get their freedom and their life back.
“The place is not for the faint hearted, it’s pretty hardcore.”
“They strip the people back to learn who they are, to learn to love themselves first.
“They don’t tell them what to do, they teach them to make the right choices.”
The academy is based around Christian values and teaches people about morals and choices as well as the importance of supporting each other.
Many of the young people who attend the Teen Challenge Academy with their drug and alcohol problems and associated troubled lifestyles often come from a background of being unwanted, left out and forgotten by society.
Deb said it is amazing to see the transformation of the people at the facility.
“One of the first modules is temptation, so if they are offered something that sounds cool or makes them feel good, they have to make the choice – is this going to harm me or is this going to help me?” she said.
“Then they do things that help them with self-worth.
“They go from down and out druggies, to mentors, to outstanding citizens.”
It was after her first year of the event that Deb brought back information about the academy for Gavin’s daughter Bec, who was suffering from substance addiction.
Gavin said Bec suffered substance abuse for two to three years through poor choices of friends and bad habits.
The 22 year old has been at the academy since March and Gavin is grateful for the amazing work they do there.
“They work through phases every three months. They’ve got to progress to another phase, just like being in school,” he said.
“Every six weeks I go over and visit for four days with Bec.
“On Thursdays I talk to her on the phone for 10 minutes, and that’s the only time I talk to her, so there’s a lot of discipline and rules to follow there which is a good thing.”
Bec has turned her life around in her time at the facility and has progressed to a level where she is mentoring another person who is starting out in the program.
Gavin will take part in the ride for the first time this year, but he has already established the Bass Coast Cyclist Challenge, with funds raised going towards the RYDA Road Safety Education Program.
“Gavin was always passionate about being part of this ride but now it means so much more for both of us,” Deb said.
He has competed in 17 Ironman Triathlons, but Gavin said the 1000km bike ride event will be a challenge and he will be motivated by the cause.
“You always focus on things when you’re put in a position like that,” he said.
“When’s there’s passion built behind what you’re trying to do, you really focus on what the goal is, what you’re trying to achieve, who it’s for and the reason behind it.
“When you’ve really got to dig deep to get through an event like that, it will definitely be motivating me to do the 1000km.”
Although the ice epidemic that has gripped Victoria has impacted heavily on the Slavin family, Gavin said Bec’s fight had brought his family closer together.
“My eldest daughter Aimee has been inspired by what Bec’s doing and is completing a Youth Welfare course which is great,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter what sort of family you’re from, a good or bad or indifferent type.
“I belief if you have good steady morals within your family then eventually they will overcome all the bad choices.”
Gavin and Deb have already raised more than $3400 towards the event and if you would like to donate, go to http://www.tdf1000.org/index.php?option=com_riders&view= riderslist&Itemid=9 and click on Gavin Slavin or Debbie Rielly.