Yesterday I finished a gruelling 400 km (actually about 421 km) ride to and around Waterloo to raise money for Tour for Kids. This year is the fourth time I have participated in the ride, choosing the 4-day over the 2 or 1 day options.
Now why would I choose to punish myself? I do not have an athlete’s body, nor do I have the physique of a long-distance cyclist. I am not twenty years old anymore either. The answer is “the ride”. This charity gives every penny of every donation to the kids. Not one cent of any donation goes toward the nebulous “administrative charges”. We don’t pay for fancy offices and gala dinners. There are no inflated executive salaries, just a whole bunch of dedicated people working for a common good.
You may think camp is not a solution to curing childhood cancer, and you would be correct. Camp itself doesn’t cure, but it does help the wounded spirits. Over 1,700 children are diagnosed with cancer every year in Canada. Add the parents and siblings and other family members. Add friends and classmates, and there are an enormous number of people affected.
The camps we support offer accessible camp experiences at every stage of treatment. It ensures children aren’t defined by their diagnosis. They can talk frankly about living with cancer. Their siblings can talk about life beyond cancer.
This year’s ride was the coldest and perhaps the windiest one yet for me. The hills are my nemesis. I was exhausted and drained at the top of the hill. It would have been so easy for me to get off my bike and wait for a ride to the next rest stop by one of the incredible volunteers. But I didn’t. I kept riding – sometimes with other people, and sometimes by myself for a few kilometres. I didn’t stop.
The days started and ended with families affected by cancer. These are the faces of cancer. It is easy to donate money to a cause, but we are donating money to help these people standing in front of us. Sometimes we heard the amazing stories of children, teens and young adults who have been in remission for several years. They are planning their futures. Other times we heard the heartbreaking stories of loss from parents and siblings. Sometimes our day starts in tears; sometimes in starts with cheers.
We have our own hearts ripped out and put back changed. We are grateful for the lives that we have. We feel so small in the world that is childhood cancer. So we ride. No one at home would ever know whether or not I finished the ride. I would know. If these children and these families can face each day with uncertainty, I can at least get up and on my bike for four days.
This is why I do what I do. This is why, when I go asking for donations, I am so passionate about it. This is why I ride.