Osoyoos, Oliver and area cyclists have pedalled over 2,786 km in August, raising more than $15,000 for the fight against children’s cancer.
Across the country over 15,300 riders took part in the Great Cycle Challenge Canada cycling over 2.84 million kilometres and raising money with every turn of the pedal to help support research and treatment of children's cancer.
Cancer is the largest killer of kids in Canada with 27 new children diagnosed every single week, or 1,400 each year.
For Brenda Arychuk, Anarchist Mountain resident and a volunteer with the Anarchist Mountain Fire Department Society, this is her second year participating in the challenge. While she had aimed to raise $1,500, she ended up cycling 155.9km, raising $1,915 in the process.
The wildfire smoke did pose a challenge she says, but notes it was not quite as smokey up on Anarchist as it was down at the valley floor.
"But we did have to go different places to find cleaner air to ride," she says pointing to rides on Kettle Valley Rail Trail out near Rock Creek.
"The majority of our riding was on the mountain for the four of us," she says. They did do some riding indoors on stationary bikes, but that's not very satisfying, she laughs.
Because of the tough summer with so many weather related incidents and wildfires throughout the country, the organizers extended the challenge so that riders could keep logging their kilometres for the month of September.
Arychuk says that even though the fundraising part is done, the extension meant that participants could still reach their kilometre goals. Overall she says she's pleased to have exceeded her goals, raising nearly $500 more than last year.
Arychuk is part of the "Anarchist Mountain Rollers" team which includes her husband Mike Arychuk, Alena Bajkov, and Sandra Newfield. Altogether they raised $10,322 surpassing their goal of $9,600.
The team members don't necessarily ride together but they pool their kilometres, and "you sort of keep each other going and as a team and promoting what we were doing in our community. So I think that really helped with the fundraising as well because we also got great support from our community."
She says awareness of the fundraiser is fairly low but growing which is important. "The group of riders is usually pretty modest, but if people are more aware of it, then it helps them [the cyclists]. She adds that children can also participate.
"We're just doing it because we're thinking of these kids with cancer who should be doing it and can't.
"I'm sure all of us know somebody who's been touched by cancer. It's especially harder to think about when it's a child. When I used to work in healthcare I worked in pediatric oncology for a little while and it was a really, really tough area to work in," she says.
Participating for the first time this year was her husband Mike who is a lieutenant on the Anarchist Mountain Fire Department as well as a member of the Oliver Osoyoos Search and Rescue (OOSAR).
Mike cycled 155k, raising $1,328 despite being extremely busy with numerous wildfires and a number of SARS call-outs.
"When he had a day off, which wasn't very often, he would be riding and in fact, he's still this month trying to fit in some of his kilometres because there just weren't enough hours in the month of August for him to get everything done. She notes the AMFD members gave him a lot of support.
"I think the cycling was actually very good therapy for him, especially when we would go to Rock Creek and ride on the KVR. It's like a break away from dealing with fire because it was just nonstop," she says.
A key member of the Rollers team is Alena Bajkov, who when not on the golf course is typically on her bike, “when not too smoky or hot,” she adds.
Her involvement stretches back to 2019 and over the course of her participation, she's raised over $17,000 including this year's 86.1 km of cycling raising $5,989. “I have the best friends and family that support me always,” she says.
For her it was something she had seen on social media and since she loves cycling and at the same time raising money for a good cause made it a great fit. "It breaks my heart when I see these little stories [about children battling cancer], so that's all it took," she laughs.
Bajkov says she's an avid mountain biker and enjoys shorter rides around the many trails on Anarchist, along with her dog.
She too likes the KVR ride although she didn't ride it for this year's challenge. "That's a really nice trail. There's no traffic so you take the dog along with you. And it's nice and flat, that's a super bonus," she says noting that Anarchist is all about up and down.
She says one bonus of participating in the challenge is that for people who enjoy cycling, it's a good push to get out and do it. "This is a perfect excuse to get yourself out. I used to go and do the canal between Oliver and Osoyoos because again, there's no traffic and it's nice and flat."
One thing she does with a local angle is to donate her jerseys. At different levels of fundraising, participants are awarded cycling jerseys and she donates them to a local Osoyoos girl who is battling cancer. "So far she's doing well," she says.
Will she be back for next year’s challenge? "Oh yes!" she replies without hesitation.
For more information visit the Great Cycle Challenge Canada and donations for this year’s event are still being accepted.