Father’s Day means something different to Rodney Stafford than to most dads.
For the father of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford, the southwestern Ontario girl killed last year, the day gives him renewed purpose to make the world safer for his son and all children.
Rodney Stafford and his 12-year-old son Daryn spent Sunday at the top of a mountain in Jasper, a place Victoria visited and fell in love with the summer before she died.
Two people — Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty — were charged with first-degree murder in her death.
On Tuesday, Stafford and his son kick off a bike ride from Edmonton back to their hometown of Woodstock, Ont., a 3,500-kilometre journey that will take them to 44 cities and towns along the way.
Stafford made the journey himself last year, from Woodstock to Edmonton, raising money for Child Find Ontario. He has raised more than $60,000 from the start of last year’s ride to now.
He has no monetary target for this sequel journey, which he and Daryn are calling Kilometres for Kids 2: A Sibling’s Story.
“My main goal is just to create awareness,” Stafford said. “I want to get it out there that there are horrible people out there and parents need to stop taking it for granted that their children are safe.”
The father and son are planning to make it back to Woodstock on Aug. 8, building in a few days of rest to their trip.
They will ride a tandem bike for most of the journey, but switch to single bikes as they ride into town.
There are fundraising events planned in many cities and towns along the way. Jasper has declared June 20 Victoria Stafford Day. Marathon, Ont., is hosting a birthday party in honour of Tori on July 15 — the day she would have turned 10.
Stafford describes his children as two peas in a pod. Daryn lost his best friend in Victoria and his dad wants him to experience the warmth and generosity people showed him on his bike ride last year.
Daryn said it will be “awesome” to see the scenery and meet a lot of nice people along the way.
“You see people and they do stuff for cancer, but you don’t see many people doing it for kids,” he said.
“If I can help someone’s family just not have to go through this, then it will make me feel a lot better.”
Stafford is on a mission to make the country safer for children and says this bike ride will not be the end.
“I’ve kind of opened my eyes to what’s happening now that I’ve lost Tori,” he said.
“What I’ve been through in the past 14, 15 months, I would never in my life want anybody I know or anybody for that matter to go through what I’ve gone through.”