Thank you from We Rise at Daybreak…..ish

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We came. We saw. We Rode at Daybreak…..ish.

On June 7, 2014, we set foot to pedal for our first Ride to Conquer Cancer as a team. From Toronto to Hamilton to Niagara Falls, this 220 kilometre bicycle voyage is not for the faint of heart.

The number of cancer survivors that participated in the event, distinguished by a sturdy yellow flag attached to their bikes, was astonishing. More than 5,000 total riders raised a collective $20 million for cancer research. Though our team of six brought in a relatively modest $17,500, it was truly humbling to take part in a fundraising event of this magnitude.

There were tear jerking moments. Arriving at the finish line in Hamilton, I thought most of my Dad: how much we miss him, all the things we didn’t get to say and all the things we didn’t get to do, what a profound impact his loss has had on my whole family.

But the feel-good vibes emanating from all the supporters who cheered from the side of the road, holding homemade signs that read “Thank you”, helped to balance everything out. We must have heard hundreds of these thank-yous. I just wanted to thank them…..and keep going.

The policemen and women, who blocked off so many intersections and highway crossings, the volunteers, who served up our food, Advil, sun block, and everything we needed to sustain our ride in relative comfort and safety; their efforts were crucial to the event’s success.

The psychological challenge equalled the physical one. As Paul Alofs, President and CEO of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, reminded us at the start line: “Why do we ride? Because our sweat is nothing compared to their tears. Because our challenge is nothing compared to their fight. Because we are all on one journey, with one destination, one goal: to conquer cancer.”

I want to thank each of you who donated, friends and family, and everyone who said a kind word about my Father: his university hockey team the Golden Hawks, his former drivers and teammates from the auto sport world, including one friend, Jeffrey Mowins. After inheriting my Dad’s old bicycle, putting a new tire on and giving it a tune up, Jeffrey offered to send it to me (from Indiana) for use in the ride. That was an amazing gesture.

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Philip LePan would have approved of this event, the psychological and physical challenge involved as well as the determination required would have appealed to his sense of perseverance and love of athleticism. I wish I could have done this with you, Dad.

I want to express my gratitude to my close friends and teammates, each of whom I leaned on in the weeks and months following my Dad’s passing. Thank you, gentlemen (Steven Budd, Ian Gray, Stephen Burtch, Chris Budd, Michael Budd). These are guys I’ve known for a collective 142 years, and the friendship therein may not feel altogether unlike an old married couple, a very old married couple. But it’s fun. And it’s good. We enjoyed ourselves. We all feel like we did a good thing, and I’d like to think we’re right about that.

We have a lot of people in common who have been affected by cancer, to remember and to support. It’s also clear that we each have our own reasons for riding, as we each have our own personal experience with the illness and therefore attach a different meaning to the event. Combining all that similarity and difference into a team of six leaders, training at GoodLife Fitness and Ultimate Athletics Wednesdays together, organizing fundraising together, engaging in countless email threads together and of course riding from Toronto to Hamilton and to Niagara Falls together, this is a good thing. It is also no small challenge: to communicate effectively, to compromise and see things from each other’s perspective, to temper personal expectation; perhaps a labour of love, and far from flawless, but when done well, well worth it when considering the importance of the cause.

“…our sweat, their tears.”

I was struck by the likely half-dozen or more people along the route, whose attempt to complete the Ride had come to an end: a rider writhing in pain on a hill halfway to Hamilton, his teammate scraped up good, beside him. A collision, a fall, exhaustion, we weren’t sure. Anything could go wrong. Thank God for the first responders. There was a rider lying face down on the road, immobilized, yet talking calmly, reassuring those around here that she was okay, her day likely done.

For these riders, the optimism at the outset of the event, likely turned to temporary disappointment. It was hard to see that. To take nothing away from those who didn’t finish. Their effort was impressive nonetheless. In a sense, they’d already crossed the finish line. They hit their fundraising minimums. They honoured the memories of friends and family lost to cancer. Coming back to the words at the start line, our sweat and our pain are nothing compared to their tears.

Conquering cancer in our lifetime may seem like an impossible task, but like in any realm of human endeavour what seems to be and what could be are often worlds apart. Thank you for helping the team, We Ride at Daybreak…..ish, do our small part to bring ourselves one step closer to what could be.

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About Chris LePan

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