Published on September 08, 2013
Neil Babbage of Niagara Falls, Ont., is one of 26 cyclists riding across Canada to raise money and awareness for the fighe against childhood cancer. On Sunday, they stopped outside Town 'n' Country Mall's Sears location to recharge themselves. Times-Herald photo by Nathan Liewicki
Published on September 08, 2013
Drew Nelson of Cambridge, Ont., (left) and Bob Ahuja of Abbotsford, B.C., (right) pose for a picture Sunday afternoon at a pit stop in Moose Jaw during the sixth annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride. Times-Herald photo by Nathan Liewicki
Tears streamed down Neil Babbage’s face as he talked about a little boy in Niagara Falls, Ont., who recently lost his life to cancer.
“There are at least 10 more kids back home that are fighting cancer,” Babbage said while trying to hold back the tears.
Babbage, 48, also has a family member affected by childhood cancer.
In the United Kingdom, his brother’s granddaughter had to go to Paris to undergo operations and chemotherapy treatment to deal with cancer.
She no longer has cancer.
Babbage is one of 26 Canadians partaking in a 17-day cycling journey from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in the sixth annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride.
The cyclists stopped in Moose Jaw on Sunday afternoon for a quick rest complete with a refueling of food and liquids.
Those waiting for the arrival of the cyclists on the Sears parking lot outside Town ‘n’ Country Mall waited about 45 minutes longer than was anticipated.
Heavy rains in Alberta had slightly slowed the riders.
Despite the delay, Joyce Kemp, the local event organizer, was excited to see the cyclists arrive.
“A lot of riders are riding for some relative with or have had cancer,” said Kemp.
Another cyclist riding for a fellow family member affected by cancer is Drew Nelson.
The Cambridge, Ont., man is participating in the cross-Canada trek in honour of his son, a 10-year brain cancer survivor.
“My son did this ride two years ago and I wanted to do it too,” noted Nelson. “I’m hoping to give hope to families in the same boat as my family used to be.”
Now 19 years old, Nelson’s son just started university this past week.
“Everything feels right,” said Nelson, who is wearing the ‘bravery beads’ his son received during his cancer treatment.
Bob Ahuja is only cycling from White Rock, B.C., to Winnipeg before returning home to Abbotsford, B.C.
He completed the more than 7,000-km trek last year and said it’s difficult to put into words the meaning of supporting childhood cancer.
“The smiles you get – it’s just an incredible feeling,” said Ahuja.
Each of the 26 riders needed to raise at least $25,000 in order to be eligible to partake in the nationwide ride.
That, however, does not cover other aspects of the journey, which started well before the cyclists even arrived on the west coast.
“There’s a personal registration fee of $3,000 as well that has to be paid,” said Babbage.
Numerous hours of mental and physical preparation were also put in by each of the cyclists. That often didn’t allow them to spend a lot of time with their families, especially over the recent summer months.
Cyclists were also responsible for securing their own transportation to and from either side of the country.
“I was fortunate that someone donated their Air Miles to cover my flights,” Babbage stated.
Babbage, who fundraised for the last six to eight years, used to weigh 350 lbs. He now checks in at about 215 lbs.
As a result, he is physically able to partake in the ride.
Moreover, Babbage said he didn’t realize how many kids were affected by childhood cancer until he checked out the website.
“Once I read about the widespread effect cancer had on children I knew I had to do it,”
And he is enjoying every pedal along the way.
Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks