Bike-a-thon nears milestone mark
$1 million within reach in fundraiser's 10th year
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Friday, Mar 08, 2013 05:15 pm
Bellerose High School’s annual bike-a-thon ended Friday as it began on Wednesday in a spirit of fighting for a common cause against cancer.
The school’s atrium whirled with activity as some 850 steadfast individuals biked in teams for 48 hours. The mammoth event for the Alberta Cancer Foundation and Kids with Cancer is the largest high school fundraiser in Western Canada.
This year’s bike-a-thon marks a decade for the event and it was as strong as ever. The walls were bedecked with signs and posters, even a large collection of cards signed by participants, showing their reasons for riding. Those reasons were grandmothers and grandfathers, moms and dads, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends.
Despite the seriousness of the proceedings and the motivation of finding a cure, the students never failed to make it as lively as possible with team themes ranging from superheroes, Average Joes, Waldos and tie-dyes to Loraxes, Snack Packs and SWAT (Students With A Target) members.
The Snack Packs were recognized as having raised almost $9,400, the highest amount of any group in the event’s history.
“Principals spend their time justifying what happens to students,” said principal Larry Dick during the closing ceremony.
“This principal knows now, without a shadow of a doubt, that this school sends out into the world 850 young people who know that they can make a difference, who know that they can commit themselves to a cause, and who have done it.”
Over the last nine years, the school has brought in more than $700,000 for cancer charities. During the opening ceremony, it was announced that almost $250,000 has already been raised this year, bringing the countdown to $1 million closer to everyone’s attention. That figure has not yet been reached but pledges are still being collected.
Charissa Spencer, the fundraising events specialist for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, said money raised this year would help fund the clinical trials unit at the Cross Cancer Institute.
“Every single cancer drug, every single cancer treatment has to go through clinical trials. What you’re doing by raising funds,” she said to the crowd, “is ensuring that the patients right here … are the very first ones to benefit from those leading edge, groundbreaking, first in the world cancer treatments and therapies.”
During Friday’s closing, the institute’s Dr. John Mackey emphasized the importance of that work. He had just lost one of his long-term patients Friday morning, before his appearance at the school.
“This money is not being spent frivolously,” he said. “We admit that we are not as good at what we do as we need to be. It’s very upsetting to lose people that you have treated for many years. To prevent that, we do clinical trials. We’re testing something new because what we’re doing right now is not good enough.”
“People are dying and we are tired of that. We’re trying to change that. It’s inspiring to see that we’re not fighting this fight alone.”
He said that about 800 people participate in these trials every year, almost the same as the number of bike-a-thoners, he pointed out.
During the bike-a-thon’s opening ceremony, the crowd was asked to identify whom among them the disease had affected. Everyone – a mass of humanity nearly 1,000 strong – raised their hands.
The sense of community wasn’t lost on Taya Tweten, one of the organizers behind the school’s recent #EllenforBikeathon tweet-up to get the attention of daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres. The student took to the stage during the ceremony to relate a story about her father’s battle with ocular melanoma.
He lost his eye and later his life, but his memory obviously still burns bright in the young woman. She said that the bike-a-thon is important for so many reasons.
“I’m so happy to be a part of this event and to be a part of such a wonderful school filled with people who realize the hardships of cancer and will go leaps and bounds to put an end to it,” she said. Later, she added how much it meant to her personally.
“Everything, the world … honestly.”
Former principal George Mentz said he was looking forward to his first time on the alumni team. It fills him with pride to see such devotion to a good cause, he said, and it never fails to bring a tear to his eye.
“I’m looking forward to looking at the crowd, looking at the kids, knowing that these kids are doing something so meaningful, and they know it’s meaningful,” he said.
Members of the public can donate to the cause via the school’s website at bchs.spschools.org.