Armstrong leads local fundraiser

On Saturday, Aug. 28, cyclists participating in the third-annual Grand River Hospital Foundation (GRHF) Ride with Lance were motivated by hope.

The fundraiser saw around 60 individuals ride 120 kilometres around Waterloo Region alongside Tour de France greats Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie in support of the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre.

All participants in the ride had to raise a minimum of $20,000 in order to cycle among the pack.

Among the crowd of cyclists was Wilfrid Laurier University professor Jill Tracey of the kinesiology and physical education department. Tracey rode as a tribute to her father, who passed away in April of lung and bone cancer.

Already a recreational cyclist, Tracey told The Cord that activity and athleticism was a passion she shared with her father. “He is my hero,” she said, “He is a person who was so full of life, who valued physical activity, sport, and movement … I knew that he would love this whole thing.”

Also present for the event was British television personality Phil Liggett, the foremost English language commentator for the Tour de France for a number of years. In 2005 he joined forces with Joe Dutton of Calgary, New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson, and Lance Armstrong to organize the Ride with Lance.

“For two days,” Liggett said of the weekend’s events and all those involved and participating,
“We are all one.”

Liggett has been inspired by the many stories of survival and courage from his years involved in the project. One noteworthy story he shared was of a woman among the riders who had been badly injured after being dragged along by a truck.

“Now she’s riding again,” Ligget said with pride. “These stories are incredible.”So far the event has raised $1,137,490 for the GRHF. Specific programs supported by the ride include chemotherapy and radiation therapy programs, clinical research, supportive care, inpatient oncology and palliative care.

Former Kitchener Ranger David Clarkson jumped at the opportunity to participate. During his time with the Rangers, Clarkson said, “They treated me like gold and went above and beyond for me. So this is where I wanted to start my own charity, Clarky’s Kids.” Clarkson’s charity also supports the Grand River Hospital, providing programming for children with cancer.

When approached about becoming involved with the ride, Clarkson said that participating was a “no-brainer.”

While biking came naturally for Tracey, she said that fundraising itself was difficult. However, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness from friends and family, especially those in the Laurier community.

Tracey said she saw many contributions from students and staff whom she didn’t even know or teach.

“I’d get a donation notice and think, ‘I don’t even know you personally, and you donated, that’s so nice!’”

Tracey was especially humbled by Armstrong’s admiration of the participants’ work, considering his own struggle with cancer.

“For him to turn it back and say that he appreciates what we all do, that’s very special.”

While some more experienced road cyclists gave themselves a goal to finish within a certain time, Tracey was more concerned with simply making it to the end.

When her ride was difficult, she thought of her father and others fighting cancer.
“If they can struggle through what they have to struggle with, then I can certainly ride my bike.”

Check out a photo gallery of this event.