NORTH DELTA â€” This Saturday (June 20), a couple hundred people will wake at 3 a.m. to begin a long journey from Kelowna to North Delta.
On bikes, 120 riders will pedal their way southwest, with dozens of others forming a support-crew caravan. By around 10 p.m., the cyclists will roll into a Scott Road parking lot to complete one of the most physically demanding charity events around.
It’s called The Ride2Survive, a grassroots effort that has become the largest independently-run fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The annual event has raised nearly $3 million over the past decade. Last year alone, the sum was more than $535,000.
Impressively, unlike some other charity rides, every cent of money raised goes directly to cancer research. The logistics of food, travel, supplies, transportation, support vehicles, advertising, salaries and other expenses are borne by riders, or are donated by local businesses.
"There are other rides out there, but this one is different, pretty special," underlined Siobhan Coates, a Ride2Survive veteran who lives in Surrey.
Coates and the other cyclists climb two mountain summits as they tackle the 400-kilometre trip in a single day.
North Delta’s Kerry and Vicki Kunzli have organized the ride since the beginning 11 years ago.
"Every year at this time, it’s controlled chaos at our house," Kerry said as some riders and crew members gathered there for an interview with the Now.
Story continues below 2010 video featuring The Ride2Survive:
This tight-knit "family" includes cancer survivors like Jeff Conner, who can’t cycle 400 kilometres â€” "yet," he emphasizes â€” but somehow feels obliged to help out as crew.
"I’ve been toting water and packing bags and driving cars and loading bikes," he said, "and a lot of the time it’s just talking to (the riders), giving them a little encouragement if they’re having a tough time getting up a hill, things like that. Being part of this team is so great, this dedicated team."
On a training ride last weekend, the cyclists stopped at Payal Business Centre in Surrey to visit a trio of men (Kunzli, Delta Police Const. Ken Usipiuk and local business owner Amarjit Dhadwar) who spent 50 hours in a scissorlift crane to raise funds for the event â€” close to $27,000, in fact.
"I’ve done the event for six years as a police escort, starting in Kelowna and all the way down," Usipiuk said. "It’s a fantastic event. Next year, I’m aiming to ride it, so this year we did the pole sit and also a fundraising dinner on June 26 (at Bollywood Banquet Hall in Newton)."
This Friday morning (June 19, at 9 a.m.) before the Ride2Surviveers are bused to Kelowna, B.C. Lions team boss Wally Buono will speak at a send-off event outside Caps South Shore Cycle on Scott Road â€” both the starting point and finish line for their long trek.
See video of Ride2Survive cyclists ending their long ride in Delta last year: