Igniting the spark to help others

Ride to Conquer Cancer offers lesson in endurance and resilience

Hope resident Kay Thorne rode in the recent BC Ride to Conquer Cancer

Fitness challenges are a great way to motivate people to shake off their sedentary lifestyles and put those calories to work — and speaking of work: the workplace can often be the place where the first step back to fitness begins.

Employers: take note.

Hope resident Kay Thorne works at the head office of Prospera Credit Union in Abbotsford. About three years ago, employees were encouraged to get involved in cycling and the promotion caught Thorne’s interest.

“They said they’d offer free training for anyone, so I joined,” said Thorne. “I bought a Trek road bike and it has almost 4,000 kilometres on it already.

“We have about 30 members on our team that we call the ‘Prospera Pacemakers’ — all staff members from different branches.”

The team goes for after-work training rides in the Abbotsford area, often using the Highway 1 parallel roads but also hitting some challenging hills, such as Sumas Mountain.

The training prepares the riders for weekend fondos — or rides — that are organized around the province. (For a bit of fun, put “granfondo’ into an online Italian-to-English translator.)

“I’ve signed up for the Prospera Valley Granfondo in July,” said Thorne. “I’ve done the 88K route before — but I’ve signed up for the 160K this year.

“It’s all in one day. It starts in Fort Langley and goes down to Zero Avenue, over to Yarrow, up over Sumas Mountain and back to Fort Langley.”

That event is on July 20, so there’s a good chance the weather will be drier — or at least warmer — than the cold and rainy ride Thorne endured in the two-day, 244K BC Ride to Conquer Cancer, June 14 and 15.

Thorne’s father died of cancer many years ago and her sister runs a cancer clinic in Buffalo New York — but her biggest motivation came from how the disease has touched two friends recently.

“A friend of mine, named Dan, died last May,” said Thorne. “He fought it really hard — and now a friend at work, Barb, is fighting it.

“With those two people in mind, I decided to sign up for the ride and raise some money for research and raise awareness that we still have a long way to go.”

In addition to training, Thorne had some major fundraising to do before being allowed to join the ride.

“In order to take part, you have to raise at least $2,500,” she said. “The Hope Fraternal Order of Eagles was my biggest supporter. They donated $2,000 and that me a big kickstart. It was over half of my fundraising, since I raised just about $4,000.”

While most of us were sheltered from the elements that weekend… there was Thorne and over 2,000 fellow riders huddled in the rain at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds, waiting for the 7 a.m. start. From Cloverdale, the group headed south, crossing the Canada-U.S. border and getting as far as Mount Vernon on the first day.

Seven hours in the rain.

“Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain! Oh my god!” said Thorne, groaning over the memory of it. “My partner, Larry (Kellum), was shadowing me in a camper van and I changed my clothes twice — but after half an hour, I was soaked again.

“The ride is extremely well organized,” added Thorne. “They had big tractor-trailers for hot showers and they had hot meals for us — and excellent speakers.”

Day two offered more of the same weather, and we’ll go to Thorne’s Facebook entry for the conclusion of her most challenging ride to-date:

“Near the end of Day No. 2 of the BC Ride to Conquer Cancer, closing in on completing 244 kms, I was exhausted, soaked, cold, sore and cranky,” writes Thorne. “I could hear the cheering crowd around the corner at the finish line and was so entrenched in my own misery all I could think of was getting something hot to drink and getting warm.

“With very little energy left, I looked up as I crossed the finish line. Standing there in the crowd of cheering supporters, in the torrential downpour, was a boy of about 10 years old. He was holding up a sign that said, ‘Thank you for riding for me.’

“And I cried.

“It brought me back to the reality of why I was there. 2,100 riders raised $9.1 million dollars to support the British Columbia Ride to Conquer Cancer. Thank you to all of you who supported this effort, both with your generous donations and your words of encouragement.

“You are world class game changers.”

Thorne said she continued crying for the next 45 minutes, her tears masked by raindrops.

“It was a tough endurance ride — but nothing compared to what a cancer patient has to combat,” she added. “A humbling experience for me.”

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