HALIFAX – It was a hero’s welcome for more than 30 cyclists who pedaled their way from Vancouver to Halifax on behalf of childhood cancer.
The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride left the west coast 17 days ago and reached the finish line at Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park on Saturday afternoon.
The annual event brings together cancer survivors and supporters in a bid to raise money for childhood oncology programs.
Taylor Wheatley, a childhood cancer survivor from Calgary who took part in the ride, says her inspiration came from the children she was raising money for.
“There’s always hills, there’s always bad weather, but it never compares to a kid going through cancer treatment,” she said.
“So I think when that’s in the forefront of your mind, it is easy to keep going and no, you never really want to quit at all.”
Fellow rider, Hannah MacKenzie, echoed that sentiment. The Halifax native was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia eight years ago at the age of 14.
“I feel very fortunate, very lucky, to be one of those … that have made it but there’s still 12 per cent of kids who won’t beat it,” MacKenzie said.
“That’s not fair. No kid should have to leave us at such a young age. So that’s why I do it.”
This past spring, MacKenzie marked five years of being cancer-free and to celebrate, she embarked on this national ride with her oncologist by her side.
“She’s the reason I got into the ride,” said Dr. Bruce Crooks, as the two embraced. “I wanted to do the ride anyway because I wanted to show we can give back as well.”
The riders rode en masse to the IWK Health Centre on Saturday afternoon where Dr. Crooks is a pediatric oncologist.
Young patients and their family greeted the riders with flowers, hugs and high fives — while thanking them for going the extra mile.
“It means life,” said Khrystyna Drebot, whose daughter Melaniya was diagnosed with cancer a year ago.
“[Melaniya] recovered and now she’s clear of cancer and this is the celebration of life.”
The fundraiser’s goal was $1.5 million this year.
Organizers say administration and promotional expenses are minimal thanks to sponsors and volunteers, so 100 per cent of the money raised can go directly to research and support programs at pediatric oncology centres across Canada.