Monday, 24 September 2012

Down the 401: Riding for the Kids

Mission Accomplished!

In all, we were 38 riders, many of whom had not met until we boarded the train to Toronto on August 7th to embark on the 401 Bike Challenge, a fund-raising ride to benefit Sarah's Floor of the Montreal Children's Hospital, and in particular, pediatric oncology.

I, for one, only knew a handful of this large and varied group of dedicated individuals, but as I would soon find out, our commitment to raise money for this wonderful cause, and the time we would spend together helping each other ride 586 kms in just over two days would form a bond one cannot quite explain.  Perhaps that is why they call it being part of the "401 Family".

My Niece Aurora, who raised over 1k herself by cutting her hair
for a cause

My friend Andy Frank....Two friends, two survivors

My brother Pete and our niece and nephew

My sister Sue and her family in Toronto

I sure felt that connection from the moment we boarded the train. We were all eager to share our story, the "whys" of why we were riding in this epic challenge. I have rarely seen such a committed group of people,  from many different walks of life, banding together to help these kids who so needed our help.

Leaving Toronto

And so, on a sunny, warm August morning, we set out from the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto for our 586 km return back to Montreal. We were all running high on adrenaline, partly due to having a police escort lead us out of the city at rush hour, sirens ablaze, onlookers baffled by this valiant group of cyclists racing through the downtown core.  What an incredible feeling.

The first day was warm, and getting out to the city limits proved to be slow.  It wasn't until after Oshawa that we were really able to get going. A nice prepared lunch in a park in Port Hope allowed us to regain our energy for the afternoon, and at suppertime, 195 kms later, we arrived in Belleville, more than ready for a beer and a wholesome meal.

Lunch in Port Hope

My friend and roommate Tom Belliveau, who has dedicated many hours
 to raising money for cancer. 

All night, we kept looking at the weather, and we came to the realization that day 2 would be more of a challenge than we had hoped for.  We set out at 7am from Belleville, and for the first part of the morning, we had avoided the rain, but the clouds kept lingering, and upon our entry onto the Thousand Islands Parkway just east of Gananoque, the heavens opened up. The spray from the wheels ahead of us in our peloton was like being hosed down after a muddy bike ride. We were cold, wet, and questioning how we were going to be able to ride the day in conditions like this. At this point, we had headwinds and more than 130 kms ahead of us. We had already ridden 125.

The rain started...

Whatever happened that day is irrelevant now, except for the supreme desire and motivation on behalf of each rider to get the job done - nothing was going to stop us from doing this for the kids.
At 7:40 PM, 12.5 hours after departing Belleville, we reached our hotel in Cornwall, amidst tears of joy, hugs, elation, pain.... we had come here to do what we promised to do.

Arrival into Montreal

Our 130 km ride into Montreal on the third day was flawless, and we were running high on energy and a desire to finish off what we had started.  Our arrival at the Childrens hospital can only be described as deeply emotional, and while every rider had his or her reasons for taking on this challenge, we all shared something in common at the finish line...... we had done this together... as a family.

And to my wonderful family and friends who took the time out to greet us at the end...
 I am deeply grateful.

This picture sums it all up for me...

I will never forget my experience and gratitude for being a part of this wonderful ride.

Many thanks to our visionary, Gene Piccoli, who had an idea eight years ago....

 and did something about it.

In the end, we raised $275,000 for the kids at the MCH

Hope and Gratitude for the kids, the friends I have made, and the endless
possibilities that lie ahead.....

Please follow the link below for a  wonderful video of our ride called:
"Down the 401 : The Ride of a Lifetime, Coming Home"

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