Commuters within the Kingston sphere of municipalities may have noticed the abundance of cyclists clad in orange along our roads and trails this past month, and this eye-catching attire is meant to grab your attention for reasons beyond just safety – it’s also to raise awareness and funds for a goal that, for most, hits close to home regardless of which of these towns you’re from: an end to childhood cancer.
It’s a Canada-wide movement that began in 2016 and has since snowballed into one of the largest annual cycling events across the country. The aim of this movement is put eloquently on the Great Cycle Challenge Canada website: “All ages, all fitness levels, any location across Canada – set your goal and ride to kick cancer’s butt!”
One such inspiring oncological butt-kicker is Sharon Ansell-Moore, who is not only a cancer survivor in her own right, but has been riding for Great Cycle Challenge Canada these past two years based out of Gananoque at the impressive age of 65 (now 66), along with her son and many of her neighbours. The Kingston chapter of the charity (which includes Gananoque, Belleville and other surrounding municipalities) has raised over $109,000, ridden over 31,000 km, with over 280 riders participating, including (but not limited to) children on tricycles, the wheelchair mobile and e-bike users.
“I was struggling with working from home, COVID, losing my husband… so I thought this was kind of a challenge for me. Somebody had introduced me to biking, I bought a bike – I think the last gravel bike in Kingston at the time – and just started riding,” said Ansell-Moore. “Nobody is prevented from participating because of ability level, the hope is that everybody is able to participate, and I think the real goal is about the kid’s that we’re riding for.”
While it was initially a July-based event, the current pandemic had forced a change of duration to August last year, as administrators and organizers awaited a decision to go ahead or not in 2020, and this same pattern continued into 2021. Despite pandemic restrictions, the event has, for both years, been an extreme success with an addition of close to 20,000 new riders nationwide who, along with their seasoned contemporaries, raised over $8,560,963 thus far – this year alone. While the riders themselves hang up their bikes for charity purposes in the closing days of August, donations are still accepted throughout the year to help these warrior kids and their families fight in their hardest of battles.
So far, the man at the top spot for the Kingston Chapter of Great Cycling Challenge Canada is none other than John Osborn – a Kingston man who, when not fighting fires with a hose, helps kids fight against cancer with his bike in honour of his daughter, who is also a survivor of cancer – thus far raising a whopping $11,798.86 for the cause. Richard Teixeira of Amherstview takes the chapter’s second place spot with a formidable $6,413.11 raised for the fight, while just trailing behind in third is Kingston’s own Helga Rausch, with a handsome pool of $6,236.05 accumulated for the charity at the time of publication.
Garry Bennett from New Liskeard, Ontario, who this year has cycled 989.6 km in total and raised $28,098.27 dollars to fight kids’ cancer, has taken the nation’s top spot, proving that when it comes to this oft deadly childhood disease that still claims more young lives than any other in the country – Ontarians are leading the charge.
“Just the camaraderie on the Facebook page of having everyone cheer for you, my fellow cyclists across Canada – just having people cheering you on and to see the people out here doing this… We are all riding for something, we have all been touched by cancer in this province, and in Canada.” Ansell-Moore expressed.
“Age is not a deterrent; it’s a great sport, great exercise, and such a worthy cause. It’s really helped me get through Covid – just to have this challenge.”
For more information or to donate to the cause, you can visit Great Cycle Challenge Canada at greatcyclechallenge.ca.