SURREY – In its origins, it was nothing more than a 400-kilometre notch in a belt for a few cyclists.
But in 10 years, soon-to-be 4,000 kilometres and countless chafing-induced rashes, the Ride2Survive has become something much bigger.
In the month before the first ride was underway in 2004, it became about raising money for cancer research. This decision led to the creation of a 100-per-cent volunteerbased charity ride that has since raised more than $2,500,000.
Only half of the 17-rider team finished that first ride, but the cyclists and organizers came away with a realization about what they had created.
"We learned about it that night and thought, ‘wow we’ve got something here’. At the time there was no other ultra distance cycling event. And it stayed in B.C.," said Vicki Kunzli, one of Ride2Survive’s organizers.
Now the annual event is a one-day, 400-kilometre cycling fundraiser from Kelowna to Delta. It follows the Coquihalla Highway, a grueling ride for even the most seasoned cyclists.
The event has grown to 140 riders, a support crew of 103 and a cause that has become a second full-time, volunteer job for Kunzli and the other organizers. The knowledge that they are making a difference has made all the work worthwhile.
"Knowing full well that some of the treatments that we fund, people are still here. They’ve been given three weeks, they’ve gone on a new treatment and five years later they’re still here. It makes a difference," said Kunzli.
There have been moments, too, she said, that make the ride more than about those participating.
One year, the group was riding through an area with busy traffic. The police had pulled all the cars over to clear the road.
"There were people honking and standing outside of their cars and all of a sudden we saw people holding up their wallets and pictures in their wallets. And that was just a clincher to me going, ‘Oh my gosh these are their people’," said Kunzli.
The riders have also lost many of their own along the way. Their names are permanently printed on the sleeves of the Ride2Survive jerseys.
The Ride2Survive takes place on Saturday (June 21).
Riders will leave Kelowna at 3:30 a.m. and hope to arrive at South Shore Cycle on Scott Road in Delta by 10 p.m. This year, those at home can follow the Ride2Survive’s progress in real-time and on social media.
"We will have GPS on our front pilot vehicle the whole day so they can watch on our website and we will be tweeting and facebooking all day," said Kunzli.
While partnered with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Ride2Survive is classified as an independent fundraiser. This means that no administration costs are taken and 100 per cent of donations go to research and prevention.
For more information, to donate or to follow the riders in real-time on ride day, visit Ride2survive.ca. firstname.lastname@example.org