Saturday’s swansong Ride2Survive raised more than $1 million for a cancer-related cause.
The 15th and final fundraiser of its kind saw close to 150 brave cyclists pedal from Kelowna to Delta in a single day, during an annual event designed to reflect a typically hard day in the life of a cancer patient in treatment.
Starting at around 3 a.m. in the Okanagan city, the cyclists rolled southwest over the next 20-something hours – a gruelling experience for all involved, through whatever weather Mother Nature throws their way.
It was cold on the Coquihalla Highway at times, and some headwinds slowed the cyclists on their way to the Lower Mainland.
Videos and photos are posted to the event’s Facebook page.
The Ride2Survive is considered the Canadian Cancer Society’s biggest independent fundraising event.
A small army of volunteers, including cyclists and support crew, has raised more than $8 million since it all began as a much smaller fundraiser in the mid-2000s.
On Monday morning (June 24), the event’s donation website showed a total of $1,062,387 raised during the 2019 ride.
For event founders Kerry and Vicki Kunzli, who live in North Delta, and other volunteers who plan the annual event, the time has come to close this chapter of their lives.
“The logistical challenges of doing the ride are getting fragile, with all of it,” Kerry Kunzli said before Saturday’s final ride.
“It’s bittersweet,” he added, “because I was there for the first one and all the way through. We’re looking forward to just getting back on our bikes instead of planning this big ride all the time.”
The initiative will live on as a “fundraising bike club,” Kerry noted.
“Many riders still want to be part of this,” he said. “We’ll still do banquets and pole sits, raffles and fundraisers, whether we ride from Kelowna or around the block. It’s a long ride, and a lot of people still want to ride with the club. It’ll be community club – a fundraising club with a cycling problem,” he added with a laugh.
This year, because it was the last ride of its kind, more people than usual signed up to cycle.
“Usually we get about 100 riders, and we’ve had around 140 in years five and 10, so this is the most we’ve ever had in a single year, for sure,” Kunzli said.
Via Canadian Cancer Society, donations are directed to research projects without any deductions for costs or administration, he underlined.
“This is unique among fundraising events and is possible because we are all volunteers and we pay all the costs of the event,” Kerry says in a message to potential donors.
Kerry said “it’s been quite a ride,” in more ways than one.
“It blows us away when we start thinking back what’s taken place here,” he said. “It’s a pile of money we’ve raised, and yeah, we’re proud of that. We never imagined what this turned into over the past 15 years.”