Robin Kennedy works in Toronto as a leasing representative in the busy field of commercial real estate. In January 2011, her routine was shaken when a close friend and colleague was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Robin, a 2001 Loyalist College Digital Production graduate and 2000 Loyalist College Recreation and Leisure Services graduate, began looking for a way to show her support.
When she discovered the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, she knew she had found the answer. Coast to Coast is a national charity that raises funds through events that encourage active, healthy lifestyles. All donations go toward improving the survival rate and quality of life of children and their families impacted by cancer.
Each year, Coast to Coast hosts the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride—one of the largest charity cycling events in the world on behalf of childhood cancer. While Robin was not a cyclist, she applied and was accepted to become a 2011 National Rider. Then reality set in. She had just committed to riding from Vancouver to Halifax—an average of 280 km each day. On top of that, she was required to raise a minimum of $25,000 to support the cause.
“At the time, I was working for CBRE Limited so I set up an email campaign and reached out to my colleagues across Canada, explaining my story and asking for their support,” says Robin. “The response was astounding. I also organized an ‘Inside Ride’ cycling event in front of Union Station in downtown Toronto. With the help of fellow 2011 Relay Rider Len Pace, we raised $35,000.”
All told, Robin raised $43,000 through corporate sponsorships and donations from colleagues, friends and family, whom she thanked with a private event before the big ride.
Between fundraising efforts, Robin’s fitness training kicked into high gear. “I began spin classes to start logging some miles before I could get out on the roads, coupled with early morning indoor rides at home before the workday began.”
Her employer helped to set her up with a personal trainer who worked with Robin weekly to improve her endurance condition.
“My weekends were spent travelling all over… Fenelon Falls, Muskoka, Collingwood, Huntsville. I needed to experience various terrains. Learning proper shifting was key, as well as understanding the art of pacing. I struggled with climbing hills efficiently, so I worked with an additional trainer twice a week to build muscle mass and strength.”
The first two days of the cross-Canada trek were extremely difficult, riding through the Selkirk Mountains and climbing Rogers Pass, but Robin persevered. The team stopped in small towns and hospitals along the way. They met children and families whose struggles kept the cyclists connected to their cause.
“A truly indelible memory was meeting a youth named Josh, an eight-year cancer survivor. Witnessing his determination and the love and support he received from his parents was life changing. Josh is now celebrating 10 years cancer-free and his father is registered as a 2013 National Rider.”
Robin and her teammates became friends as they rode across the diverse Canadian landscape—through 6 a.m. breakfast calls; home-cooked meals at local Sears stores; and showers at gyms, hockey arenas and truck stops. After 16 days the teams reached Halifax, 7,000 km from their starting point. Robin achieved a personal best of 300 km in one day.
“Most people thought I wouldn’t complete the challenge,” recalls Robin. “I’m happy to have proven them wrong. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.”