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Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Doug Hamlin, front left, and John Robinson, front right, are surrounded by local and state officials, as well as representatives from Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara as they head out on a 12-day journey across New York State. (PHOTOS BY SCOTT LEFFLER / ENP STAFF)

By +Scott Leffler

John Robinson talks to the crowd about the
reasons for his bike ride. 
A pair of disabled bicyclists are taking a 12-day journey across upstate New York via the scenic and historic Erie Canalway Trail.

The duo, John Robinson and Doug Hamlin, started the tour on Sunday in Tonawanda and spent part of Monday in Lockport, kicking the tour off from Canal Street, where they were surrounded by nearly 60 friends, family and other disabled individuals, many of whom were from Lockport's Opportunity Unlimited.

Robinson, who along with Hamlin, founded Our Ability, said the Erie Canal itself is "a wonderful example of what we can do when we put our minds together."

"We're going to raise awareness for the ability in all of us," he added, before getting onto his specially designed bicycle and heading east towards Albany. The pair expect to make it there on July 11.

Robinson and Hamlin were joined at the kickoff in Lockport by a number of local officials, Canal Corp. President Brian Stratton, and Kellie Spychalski, executive director of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.

"From the early settlers, to the innovators, to the people who now make Lockport a diverse community, we welcome the Our Ability team," said Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey, a former member of the Opportunities Unlimited board of directors. "We pledge to carry on their message of advocacy for people with disabilities and assist agencies such as Opportunities Unlimted of Niagara to find greater opportunities for all to live, recreate and work in Lockport."

Born as a congenital amputee without full arms and legs, Robinson overcame countless obstacles to become a successful businessman, family man and inspirational speaker. He founded Our Ability with Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who is also disabled as a result of an accident.

Robinson was inspired to undertake the first Journey Along the Erie Canal two years ago by his wife, Andrea, and two children after receiving a three-wheeled, hand operated bicycle as a donation. His family helped him learn how to ride and then train for the statewide journey.

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Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara Executive Director Kellie Spychalski speaks while New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton and Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey look on. 

There's more photos from the event here. (link)

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