Tour for Kids: Cycling for a world beyond childhood cancer

The funds raised directly impact life-changing cancer support programs and camps, like Camp Kindle, which are places where kids have the opportunity to thrive beyond their cancer diagnoses and “enjoy the simple pleasure of being a kid again”.

Team Tim Hortons celebrates the end of their ride in Calgary on July 15 at Rockpointe Church, wearing medals handed out to all participants. The team came in third place in the Alberta tour, having raised $29,534. Tony Nickonchuk

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Peace River community members Gordon Drummond and Tony Nickonchuk joined the fight against cancer last weekend by participating in the “Tour for Kids Alberta” multi day charity cycling event that raises funds and awareness for childhood cancer camps, annually.

Sixteen teams and 117 people made up this year’s three-day, three-to-six-hundred-kilometre tour, according to the event’s website.

“We’re more than conquering cancer,” its Facebook page says, “we’re about making a meaningful, immediate and lasting difference in the lives of kids with cancer today.”

Nickonchuk, and Drummond, the team’s captain and owner of Peace River’s local Tim Hortons, along with Brian Hicks, Cary Williams, Lynn Fast, Mike Corneau, Mitch Wilson, Penny Pigott-Hass, Tony Sgro, and former Peace River physician, Mike Kolber, made up Team Tim Hortons, according to the teams donation page and Nickonchuk.

The team has already hit just shy of three-hundred-percent of their fundraising goal and will be accepting donations until September.

“Here’s to all the kids and their families who go through as much pain and challenges every day that we riders will go through over three days. But we will be able to go back to our lives, not worrying about spending a huge portion of them fighting an awful illness, all the while fearing the worst but hoping for the best,” Nickonchuk said in a Facebook post the day before he set out on his journey.

16 teams and 117 people made up the 2019 Alberta Tour For Kids three-day, 300-600 km tour. Collectively they have raised $319,239 as of July 15. Tony Nickonchuk

The tour

Their ride took them through the “beautiful Canadian Rockies and foothills” from July 12 to 14, Nickonchuk told the Peace River Record-Gazette on July 11.

After gathering in Calgary at Rockpointe Church for the event kick-off on July 12, the group was bussed in, while their bikes were carried along in a moving truck, and the convoy began north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway “at a place called Mosquito Creek,” Nickonchuk explained. From there they rode one-hundred-kilometres up the Icefields Parkway and then east on the David Thompson Highway to David Thompson Resort where riders camped overnight.

The next day the cyclists rode another one-hundred-kilometres to “just outside Caroline to – where I believe it’s called Water Valley” Nickonchuk explained. Then they were bussed into Camp Kindle, “which is the kids cancer camp we raise money for” he said, and this is where the riders spent their second night.

The Alberta Tour for Kids spent its second night in Camp Kindle, just outside Cochrane, on July 14. Tony Nickonchuk

On the last day, the group was bussed back to Water Valley and then took off for another one-hundred-kilometres through Rocky Mountain House, down to Cochrane, and then “up the massive hill out of Cochrane to Rockpointe Church” which is where they event finale barbecue was held.

“The ride is fully funded by corporate sponsors, which is great because then all the money the riders raise goes to the camp,” Nickonchuk said. “It also means we don’t have to carry anything on our bikes except ourselves and our water.”

The event provided bike mechanics and pilot cars “to let the traffic know to give us some space” Nickonchuk added, “which is especially helpful on the Parkway.”

L-R: Mitch Wilson of Edmonton, Tony Nickonchuk of Peace River and Mike Corneau standiIn Caroline at the museum after enjoying dessert. Tony Nickonchuk

Inspiration

“I personally have dedicated my ride to Ben, an adorable little dude who is going through treatment for a Wilms tumor. [Thirty] weeks of chemo and removal of a 15 cm tumour are trials no one should have to face, let alone a five year old kid and his family,” Nickonchuk had said via social media on July 11.

“I’d also like to thank Caribou Cresting in Peace River for stenciling my jersey in honor of Ben. They did a great job and, when I picked it up, they told me they would not be charging me for it. Class act.”

He expanded on this with the Peace River Record-Gazette while on a pit stop for lunch while on his way home through Whitecourt on July 15.

“I am bald, and Ben’s mom [Erica]  had reached out to my sister asking if she knew any cool bald people because Ben was having a hard time dealing with the idea that he was losing his hair.

“Erica wanted to collect cool pictures of cool bald people that she could show him,” he said as he began to tear up, “just to show him that, you know, you could be bald and still be cool.”

Team Tim Hortons stops for a quick break on the side of the highway amidst the Rocky Mountains during the 2019 Alberta Tour for Kids. Tony Nickonchuk

The beginnings of Team Tim Hortons

“The first year I did it I got involved through Gord and Mike,” Nickonchuk explained. “At the time I wasn’t what you would call a cyclist. There was a pretty steep training curve involved in getting up to the level where you could be on a bike for five or six hours.”

This year was Nickonchuk’s second year riding with the tour, and Drummond’s tenth.

Drummond, who began riding for the cause in 2009, invited Kolber to get involved thereafter, who then helped invite Nickonchuk in 2017.

Drummond got involved in 2009 because his youngest son, Clark, had been diagnosed with Leukemia when he was about 16-months-old and is now a cancer survivor.

“I love the idea of supporting a camp for kids with cancer and giving them the opportunity to have some sort of normalcy in their life when things look pretty rough,” Drummond explained.

As Clark has also been diagnosed with down syndrome, he has not yet been able to attend a camp, but “everyone who has gone to these camps all rave about it, so when you hear those stories, you know that it’s a good thing to be doing so that kids can go and have a normal life.”

Cyclists brave the highway amidst the Rocky Mountains during the 2019 Alberta Tour for Kids. Tony Nickonchuk

Three-hundred percent

By July 16, Drummond had raised 134% of his goal of $5,000, bringing in $6,700 for the cause, while Nickonchuk had raised 240% of his fundraising ambition, bringing in $3,600.

Both men would like to thank their wives for their continued support in this cause.

With financial support from Avenge Energy, local doctors, Peace Valley Dental and friends and family, the team has raised 295% of their $10,000 fundraising goal, sweeping the Alberta tour for its third-place title while brining in $29,534 for the cause.

All together, the event has raised $319,239, with 1,569 Donations, according to the Tour for Kids Alberta website, and will continue to accept donations until September.

At the event finale barbecue, we caught up with two of Camp Kindle’s campers who were there with their mother, Calgary’s Candace Inkpen, to support all of the riders who are doing wonderful things to send kids like these to camp.

“It’s really exciting and [I’m] really happy to see them come” said seven-year-old Foster Garisson.

“It’s impressive to see them go all the way from one place [over] a whole bunch of miles to another place,” said his nine-year-old sister, Cadence.

The Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation which operates Tour For Kids, The Inside Ride, and the National Kids Cancer Ride, is dedicated to improving the quality of life and the survival rates of children and adolescents with cancer.

The Foundation organizes a series of “high quality, physically energizing fundraising events” that support transition and survivorship programs, research and education initiatives, as well as kids cancer camps.

In Canada, over 10,000 children live with cancer or its long term effects, with an additional 1,700 children diagnosed with cancer each year.

The funds raised directly impact life-changing cancer support programs and camps, like Camp Kindle, which are places where kids have the opportunity to thrive beyond their cancer diagnoses and “enjoy the simple pleasure of being a kid again”.

“The distance sounds very intimidating,” Nickonchuk said, “but I will tell you from meeting and talking to a lot of the people – there is a huge range of abilities as far as cycling goes, and so I don’t think people should be scared away from [joining us], strictly from a physical sense.

“It is certainly within the reach of most people who are committed to it. You know, a lot of people just take their time.”

“At the end of the day – if you’re not engaging in something and giving of yourself somewhere, then you need to stop and think about what could possibly be important to you,” Drummond said, “because it’s a game changer, for you and for them. Somehow, try to get involved.”

For more information on the Tour for Kids, visit tourforkids.com.

To donate to Peace River’s Team Tim Hortons, go to: tourforkidsalberta.greatfeats.com/team/tim-hortons-2019.

 

Team Tim Hortons celebrates the end of their ride in Calgary on July 15 at Rockpointe Church, wearing medals handed out to all participants. The team came in third place in the Alberta tour, having raised $29,534. Tony Nickonchuk

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