It seems the Ride To Conquer Cancer, a fundraising two-day cycling event to support cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), is a popular cause in the Beach. In the Feb. 21 edition of Beach Metro News, new Beach residents Jasmit Bhandal and Dr. Girish Kulkarni spoke about their reasons for taking part in the ride. Kulkarni is a cancer doctor and researcher at Princess Margaret.
Beacher Jeff Fisher has taken a different angle on the event, running a moto safety team of motorcyclists. The East End team, which he’s cheekily dubbed Beach Bikers 4 Balls, is based around a group of long-term friends and family members, and Fisher is hoping to expand the group’s numbers to accommodate the expanded route selection at this year’s ride.
The first group to get involved was Fisher’s family. His wife, Maureen, who works for the fundraising arm of PMH, rode moto safety on the back of his bike two years ago; this year she’s cycling in the ride. One son rode on the back of a friend’s bike two years ago, and his other son is cycling on the bike tech team, a group of cyclists that helps riders with repairs and maintenance during the ride.
“Everybody’s done it, everybody’s been involved,” said Fisher of his family and friends.
Fisher said the reasons to help out on the ride are endless, but for motorcyclists, it’s a fairly simple choice.
“You get to do what you love to do and get a sense of contributing to a great cause,” he said. “At the end of the weekend I say, ‘that was the greatest weekend of my life, again.’”
Fisher’s son Jamie has ridden on the bike tech team for three years. Since moving to Ottawa for school a few years ago, he relishes the chance to spend quality time with friends – one of his childhood friends in the Beach also rides on the tech team with him – and family, while helping out for a good cause.
“It’s the most fantastic and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The people you meet are amazing. You show up and essentially you’ve made 4,000 new friends,” he said.
Another Beacher, Nelson Dolan, has been in charge of the tech team since the first year of the ride. He’s taken part in a variety of different fundraisers over the years, but being an avid cyclist, he felt the Ride To Conquer Cancer was the next logical step for him.
“This community’s fairly active in different charities and eager to make a difference,” he said.
Part of the joy of the ride for Dolan is seeing people who normally don’t cycle long distances take on the challenge of riding 100km for two days in a row. For many of the riders, “I think this might be the best thing they’ve ever done for themselves.
“Riding around with 5,000 people that have these big huge smiles on their face, there’s so much positive energy,” said Dolan.
He also recruited local bike shop Cycle Solutions last year. Each day of the ride, bike shops set up ‘pit stops,’ where cyclists can get minor, and sometimes major, repairs. The techs on bicycles do what they can to get cyclists rolling as far as the next pit stop, where bike shop mechanics can take further action when it’s needed. Cycle Solutions will be running two of the eight pit stops in this year’s ride.
Dolan’s wife, Linda Bird, is cycling in this year’s event, and while she appreciates the work the bike techs do, she also emphasized how important the role of the moto safety team is. Having traffic more or less cleared from the route allows cyclists to concentrate on the ride, and watching out for other cyclists in an event that draws thousands of participants.
“I feel really safe riding in that ride, even though it’s really crowded,” she said. “I just think it’s amazing what they do, I don’t think we could have the ride without them.”
Another Beacher, Sarah Cutts-Rosen, will be riding with the Beach Bikers 4 Balls team. She’s been delegated to recruit a team of women bikers to help out with this year’s moto safety team by Fisher. She first rode on the moto safety team two years ago with her husband, then ended up getting her license and buying a bike, and will be riding her own for this year’s ride.
“I’ve done a lot of volunteering over the years, but that weekend definitely left a very positive mark. It’s a weekend of just awe and inspiration,” she said.
Cutts-Rosen said the inspirational moments throughout the weekend are almost too many to count, but she puts escorting the final cyclist of the day into a cheering camp near the top of the list. She said while women traditionally bond over breast cancer events, prostate and testicular cancer affect families just as much.
“Cancer is such a downer. When you hear the ‘C’ word it makes you feel awful, and we’ve all been touched by it,” she said.
Fisher said some of the inspiring aspects of the ride to him are seeing all the survivor flags at the start of the event, and also seeing how many of the medical staff at PMH get directly involved in fundraising, taking part in the ride.
“These guys are the rock stars of the cancer research and medical treatment world, and they’re out there riding with patients and everyone else,” he said.
Any motorcyclists interested in helping out with the Beach Bikers 4 Balls safety team should contact Fisher at email@example.com, or 416-723-5917. Women motorcyclists can reach Cutts-Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Both organizers are planning group rides and social events before the ride in June. The majority of the tech team are from the Beach, or are involved in East End non-profit bicycle repair outfit Bikesauce, but Dolan can always use more cyclists that are handy with bike tools on the tech team. He can be reached at email@example.com, reference ‘rtcc’ in the subject line. Bird said she wants to encourage Beachers unable to take part to at least consider sponsoring a cyclist or the ride in general. Although she has almost reached her fundraising goal, there are many cyclists that still need to raise more money. Donations can be made to the general ride, at conquercancer.ca.