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Coronavirus: Virtual cyclists raise money for Toronto health-care workers

Virtual cyclists raise money for Toronto health-care workers
A virtual bicycle marathon has brought in a large sum of funding for health-care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

A virtual bicycle marathon has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Toronto health-care workers at a time when COVID-19 restrictions are preventing traditional charitable runs and rides from taking to the streets.

“It’s a great way to merge that passion with getting behind a cause that’s so critical and important right now,” said Toronto city councillor Brad Bradford, who spearheaded the Crush COVID effort.

The 24-hour online marathon brought together more than 400 cyclists from across Toronto and around the world to compete over the cycling and running platform Zwift. The money raised went to the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation.

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“It speaks to just how much people value our front-line health-care workers and an understanding that what we’re doing with COVID-19 is completely unprecedented,” Bradford said.

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Hannah Simms, who lives near Barrie, Ont., would normally return to the road around now after training through the winter. Instead, she said she jumped at the chance to race online and help others.

“With most of us having our race seasons cancelled, this has also been something that we can put that base miles towards and really come together and make a difference too.”

After the marathon ended on Saturday night, its website stated it had raised $204,670.

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For Michael Garron Hospital, the money raised means the purchase of more personal protective equipment, critical tools and other supports for front-line workers, the foundation’s president, Mitze Mourinho, told Global News.

“As a fundraiser, you like to set goals that are a little bit of a stretch but certainly attainable and I was a little worried but it has just been terrific,” she said.

Hours before he crossed the virtual finish line, Bradford remarked of the amount donated: “It’s been such a Toronto response and people really care.”