City Centre Mirror
Roughly 40 brave bikers took off on a 576-kilometre trek on Wednesday, Aug. 8 to raise funds for SickKids Hospital and the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
The cyclists were taking part in the CIBC 401 Bike Challenge, the eighth edition of an annual event that has raised more than $80,000 for SickKids and some $230,000 overall.
Gene Piccoli, who founded the event, was touched by the way the event has grown in the few short years since he first came up with the idea.
“We’re 38 riders and it’s really hard to believe it was eight of us in 2005,” he said. “But I never once underestimated the ability to grow this ride because cycling...is an exploding sport.”
The event came about when Piccoli wanted to do something to raise funds for cancer research after his wife was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Since then, he has been joined by others who were willing to take on the challenge, some of whom have been touched by cancer themselves.
“Roger Skira is riding for his son who was diagnosed (with acute myeloid leukemia) at 11 months,” Piccoli said. “Rob Callard was diagnosed with an incurable form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Rob’s convinced cycling changed his life and helped him; he feels he’s here today because of this wonderful sport.”
Funds raised from the ride are split between SickKids’ and the Montreal Children’s Hospital’s hematology/oncology divisions.
Lorena Cook, whose daughter Sarah’s own battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma inspired the founding of the Sarah Cook Fund, said the annual bike ride has already made a difference in the fight against childhood cancers.
With the funds raised, she said, “we are able to ensure every child from Toronto to Montreal will be able to be better treated.”
The cyclists took to the streets early on Aug. 8 and arrived in Montreal on Friday, Aug. 10. SickKids patient ambassador Nicole Waddell, 14, sent the riders off with an inspirational message. After speaking of her own treatment and recovery from a brain tumour, she reminded the riders that even the roughest and most thankless parts of the trek would help children.
“It might be a bumpy ride, but the destination is worth the travel,” she said.
SickKids neuro-oncologist Dr. Eric Bouffet added the money raised by the ride has helped both hospitals and the joint research ventures on which they have embarked with one another.
“Research is really at the heart of our activities here and we couldn’t do this without your support,” he told the riders.
Before departing on the journey, Piccoli said the riders would draw inspiration from one another and from the young people who have been – or will be – diagnosed with cancer who will benefit from the funds raised. He called both the children struggling with cancer and the team of riders who joined the CIBC 401 Bike Challenge ‘heroes’.
“Where there is life, there is hope, and where there is hope, there are heroes,” he said.
For more information on the ride, or to make a donation, visit www.401bikechallenge.ca