Feature Story                                                                                               Sunday, September 7, 2014


Fair Winds

The 7th Annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride wheels into Chilliwack

Staff/Voice photos


A rider on the 7th Annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride waves as she is leaving Cottonwood Mall Thursday. Store staff applaud them. Below, Ken Cross shows wristbands of the kids he's riding for.


wenty heroes rode into Chilliwack Thursday on the 7th Annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride. Itís just one of many fundraising events hosted by Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation that generates money for cancer research and pediatric oncology youth at children's hospitals across Canada.


Their legs are like the pistons of a car driving them on kilometer after kilometer with nothing but the wind in their ears. Even the Tour de France gets rest days. But there's no rest days for these riders. Where some would throw in the towel, they just roll up their sleeves.


They know that each stroke of their bike's crank gives hope to around 1700 kids, or five per day, annually diagnosed with cancer, and provides support for the families whose lives come to a crashing halt with the devastating words no family ever wants to hear; your child has cancer.


The pack swung in almost unnoticed at Cottonwood Mall, dismounted and hung their road bikes on a long steel stand that tour support staff had set up prior to their arrival. Sears employees were waiting for them with plenty of food and drinks and riders took a well-deserved break, laughing and posing for photos with locals.


Itís billed as the biggest charity cycling event in the world. On most days, these speed merchants travel an average distance of 170 km. Two relay teams split about 400km daily. There's no crying for momma. Theyíll have to gut it out in all types of weather for the next 7000 km.


The tour comes with a procession of vans, motor homes and even a tractor-trailer in tow all making their way to 17 of Canadaís major pediatric cancer centres from White Rock to Halifax. A mechanic rides in a mini-van escort driven by a ride-seasoned medic.


"She's like a little angel back there," says Ron Mitchell, Co-Founder of Coast to Coast.



Ken Cross's daughter (pictured) was diagnosed with Lukemia, beat it and was struck again. Thankfully, she's been cancer-free now for four years. His daughter's photo is also on the side of the tractor-trailer.


Incredibly, he's 61-years-old and has no problem keeping up with riders half his age. He took some of his precious break time to speak with the Voice.


Each of the riders participating are required to pay a registration fee and have to raise a minimum of $25,000. Some raise much more.


"The $25,000 is a very intimidating kind of number at first, but you'd be amazed at how remarkable the support is that they engender with this as people dig deep into their pockets and support us," explains Mitchell. "We've had participants in years past raise $100,000 in support of their activity. Almost everyone here riding today is at least $25,000 and some are $40-45,000."


They leave no stone unturned in the community as they hunt down funds from friends, family and employers.


Some of the riders solicit corporate sponsorship. Others run small events on their own. They all spend any spare time they have parked on stationary bikes at Sears stores training over the winter months and drawing attention to the cause.


Mitchell says that some of the money raised is used for family support programs or sending kids to cancer camps in the summer.


"The important distinction of this foundation that we're a part of, is that 100 per cent of the funds raised go to the things that we support," he said.


Sears is a major title sponsor of the ride. They help by offsetting the cost of the event. SOH Transport, which is a logistics transport company supplies the tractor-trailers outfitted with bunks.



"It's unbelievably comfortable. It's just fantastic. Sometimes we're offered beds in the stores. Sears posture-pedic, but we prefer to sleep in the trailer," he said laughing.


This is the first year that Mitchell isn't going the distance. He's dropping off in Red Deer in about 4 days time so that he can get back to Toronto and help with some of additional fundraising activities he's involved in.


Over the last ten years that Coast to Coast Foundation has been in existence, they've raised an astounding $30 million for the cause.


It's an incredible number, but Mitchell says it's still not enough when they're trying to give a child back their life and help provide family support.


"Many of the families feel so alone through that process. We're scratching the surface only by providing assistance for them on so many different levels towards the cure, towards the treatment to improve the survivability, that's important, but the family support through that process is equally important. A healthy family to help a child's fight is so critical and that's something that we're determined to focus on the entire circle to support research," said Mitchell.


It's not often that average people doing remarkable things enjoy a tailwind. So, when they get out there in the flats of Alberta, Saskatewan and Manitoba, with a driving rain in their face, they will plow ahead undaunted.


For more information, to register as a rider or a volunteer, or to make a donation, visit www.SearsNationalKidsCancerRide.com or call 1-866-381-4446. www.coasttocoastagainstcancer.org



About Sears Canada

Sears Canada is a multi-channel retailer with a network that includes 176 corporate stores, 222 Hometown stores, over 1,300 catalogue and online merchandise pick-up locations, 96 Sears Travel offices and a nationwide repair and service network. The Company also publishes Canada's most extensive general merchandise catalogue and offers shopping online at www.sears.ca.


About Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation

As Canada's only national charity devoted to fighting childhood cancer, Coast To Coast Against Cancer ensures 100% of receiptable funds raised go toward improving the survival rate and quality of life of children and their families impacted by cancer. Funds are raised by conducting memorable events that encourage active and healthy lifestyles. From cycling rides to team-building activities, children across the country benefit from the generous support of our sponsors, participants, donors and volunteers. www.beyondkidscancer.ca

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