At a time when we are all challenged with making sense of what is happening in the world, it is hard to find the words to express the feelings that many in the cycling community are experiencing following the recent and sudden death of Kelyn Akuna on May 9, 2020.
Kelyn loved cycling and was passionate about sharing his love for the sport with just about everyone that had the honour of knowing him. As a youth, Kelyn travelled the world racing his bike for the United States National Track Cycling Team. He would eventually move to Canada in his early adult life and carried on his passion for cycling at the Burnaby Velodrome where many of us got the chance to feel the kindness of Kelyn’s heart. “He was one of the good ones,” says long time Burnaby Velodrome Club member, Keith Bruneau, on an Instagram post honouring his friendship with Kelyn.
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I’ve been holding back because I am torn and not sure of the words to truly say how I’m feeling. I am gutted at the passing of Kelyn, he was one of the good ones. He has been a team mate and friend for many years, I have known the “kid” for long enough that back then he actually was a kid. You have left a void in this world, Rest In Peace Kelyn.
Kelyn would take on various leadership roles at the Burnaby Velodrome and his contributions have most definitely left a lasting impact. “His ability to organize races at the track were fun, creative, and welcoming of all ages and abilities,” recalls Tara Mowat, Cycling BC’s High Performance Program Manager. “When he had a vision, he made it happen.”
One of those visions was to inspire and enable youth to build confidence and leadership skills through cycling. In 2010/2011, in partnership with the Urban Native Youth Association, Kelyn founded the Aboriginal Youth Cycling Program. The weekly drop-in program, which is still in existence at the Burnaby Velodrome today, gives aboriginal youth the opportunity to learn and develop riding skills but more importantly, it gives them a safe place to build confidence and create meaningful connections.
Nationally sanctioned track racing would also make its return out west thanks to Kelyn’s ability to bring ideas to life, organizing the inaugural Western Track Challenge in Burnaby in 2017.
Kelyn would also lend his passion for cycling to Cycling BC by serving as a board member in 2016/2017 before moving east to Ontario where he would ultimately manage the Mattamy National Cycling Centre in Milton.
“When Kelyn moved to Milton, having a cheerleader for BC out east was a real treat. He would always work with the community he built out there to help support the west coast riders that travelled to the Mattamy National Cycling Centre to train or compete,” says Mowat. “Our cycling community has lost another incredible person.”
Cycling BC sends our condolences to Kelyn’s wife and family. A memorial fund has been started to support the Akuna Family to help them cover the costs associated with his death and help them during this difficult time.
To make a donation, please go to the Kelyn Akuna Memorial Fund gofundme page.