Pedalling against childhood cancer

Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST - Few things in the world make less sense than the injustice of a young child suffering from cancer.
On the other hand, few sights can be more life affirming than to watch people do battle against childhood cancer.
Forty-five cyclists divided into three groups of 15 recently spent 19 days cycling a relay across Canada.
They had two goals in mind - to raise money and awareness to help support kids living with cancer.
"Our hope is to change the way childhood cancer is viewed," Sears National Kids Cancer Ride development co-ordinator Mike Smith said. "Funding for cancer research is a very high but that's not true when it comes to childhood cancer."
The athletes began their journey June 2, in Vancouver and they traveled 7,600 kilometres across Canada before wrapping their trek up last Friday in Halifax.
Along the way they faced rain, sleet and snow, and they raised close to $1.25 million.
"Our goal is to raise $2 million," Smith said. "The window to donate money will be open for at least another 30 days after the ride is over."
The ride has many sponsors, the biggest of which is Sears.
"This is our first year doing the ride and when Sears came on board as the major sponsor that was a big help," Smith said.
Sears will sponsor the ride for the next two years. They, along with the other corporate sponsors and volunteers, help cover all the capital costs of the ride.
"What that means is that 100 per cent of the money that people donate goes to the kids," Smith said. "If you give 20 dollars, that 20 dollars is going to go directly to the kids."
The cyclists on the tour have all been touched by cancer in some way or another.
There are five on the ride who have been treated for cancer while the rest have had family or friends effected by the disease.
"Every ride starts with a dedication special to the riders or volunteers," Smith said. "The dedications are very intimate and personal and because of the nature of the cause most dedications are for people who aren't here any more. It's sad but that's what drives everybody. It's what we're here to solve."
Though the riders have fought all possible elements, have eaten up to 8,000 calories a day to replenish their fuel and put up with bad roads and dozens of flat tires, the biggest struggle is finding enough sleep.
"The riders have to stay on schedule," Smith said. "If they fall behind schedule they make up for it by taking hours off of their sleep time."
Despite the trials and tribulations, it's the friendships made during the ride that helps keep spirits up.
One of the volunteers driving a truck during the ride is Steven Chapman, who is formerly a resident of Amherst. He got to visit his family when the cyclists stopped in Amherst.
"The riders are a lot of fun," Chapman said. "It's a really fun and infectious group. You can't help but enjoy it out here on the road with them."
Making a donation is easy. Just go on the Internet and type in the top of the page you click on Donate and make your donation.

Organizations: Sears National Kids Cancer Ride

Geographic location: AMHERST, Canada, Vancouver Halifax

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