SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Brendan and Colleen O’Brien left Vancouver, British Columbia for the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 13.
Colleen drove a support vehicle, while her husband rode a bike on their 1,700-mile journey to San Diego.
It was not supposed to be this way.
“Originally we had threatened to put our bikes in the back of the truck and drive down the coast from Vancouver stopping wherever we wanted to go for a bike ride,” said Branden O’Brien. “But in the interim, our daughter died of a fentanyl overdose and so it turned into something much more serious.”
The couple decided to honor their 22-year-old daughter Niamh by riding the bike to raise funds for Odyssey 1, which is part of the Boys and Girls Clubs in southern British Columbia.
Almost $20,000 has already been raised.
“Because they were so helpful with our family in our time of need that’s why we decided to do this charity drive, this charity run from the Canadian border to the Mexican border,” said Colleen O’Brien.
The bike trek came with two other goals in mind: to help them heal and to raise awareness about the dangers of fentanyl.
“One of our daughters, as she told us, said yes when she should’ve said no, and that was around the age of 14, and that began her use of drugs,” said Brendan O’Brien. “The message is very simple and it is to the children out there that have heard it from their own parents: ‘You have to say no instead of yes.’ It starts small, you never think of becoming a drug addict.”
The O’Briens wanted to emphasize the need for parents to talk to their children openly about the dangers of using drugs.
“With drugs today you don’t get second chances. You have to say no. It’s not like yesteryear where the drugs were pure and you could keep carrying on using them and be safe,” said Colleen O’Brien. “Now, they’re all mostly tainted with a possible lethal dose. It’s like grains of salt, one grain gives you the high, two grains and it’s a deadly dose, it’s poison.”
The O’Briens found themselves traveling about 65 miles per day, on five consecutive days, then resting for two.
They said riding the bike to the Mexico-U.S. border was also symbolic.
“Our fentanyl comes in from China. More often than not, it arrives in our port of Vancouver and the fentanyl we discuss now and read about that’s found in these parts comes in from Mexico through this border somehow,” said Brendan O’Brien.
The Border Patrol says agents are seeing more and more fentanyl showing up in the Tijuana-San Diego region.
“Most of it is found during traffic interventions,” said Agent Angel Moreno. “For the year 2021, the San Diego Sector agents seized 1,018 pounds of fentanyl. For 2022, approximately 1,935 pounds of fentanyl were seized.”
Moreno added that as hard as they try, cartels keep pushing their products north of the border.
“Whatever comes in here, it doesn’t stay along the border, that’s why every town is a border town,” he said. “It’s important for us to really drive that message home so the American public, and as we saw these folks from Canada, narcotics smuggled in don’t just stay here.”
The O’Briens other two daughters, Cara and Aoife, arrived in San Diego on Thursday night and were on hand to see their father and mother finish their journey.
The family plans on packing away the bike and staying in San Diego for a few days before heading back to Canada.