Although the late afternoon of August 7th, 2013 was cloudy and threatening rain, there was a bright spot in the Wetaskiwin Mall parking lot that was attracting a lot of attention of motorists on Highway 2A. It was a huge red bicycle built for two… plus 28 more. Once the 27 local bank riders, Heart and Stroke driver, Heart and Stroke co-pilot and a local reporter were in place, the bike left the parking lot amid loud music mixed with the enthusiastic cheering of the participants.
“The Heart & Stroke Big Bike is a team event geared towards community organizations, companies and groups. Teams are made up of 29 enthusiastic riders committed to raise a minimum of $50 each. A driver is provided by the Foundation and riders pedal through their community in support of heart disease and stroke research.”
The Heart and Stroke Foundation brought the Big Bike to Wetaskiwin as part of a fundraiser that has been active in Canada for 20 years. The ride in Wetaskiwin was powered by the team “Wetaskiwin Bankers” made up of 27 participants from local banks. The team has been riding the bike for over 11 years raising funds for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. While there is no registration fee for Big Bike ride, each participant who rides is asked to raise a minimum of $50. The “Wetaskiwin Bankers” far exceeded that.
The Big Bike is open to participants who are 14 years or older. Teams can consist of businesses, sporting teams, family members; anyone who wishes to ride and fundraise for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The bike seats 30 people and each team consists of up to 29 individuals. The 30th seat is always reserved for the Heart and Stroke driver to maintain some level of safety during this fun event.
The half hour trip was in the capable hands of the Heart and Stroke event driver, Kuzi Gondwe and event coordinator, Austin McGrath. Leading the cheering, whistle blowing, inspiring constant laughs and making sure the stereo was blasting loud music were also part of their duties. “I was really pleased to see such a good turnout”, states Gondwe. “If we only have 15 riders instead of the 30, it becomes really hard work. From my point of view, the Wetaskiwin ride was tremendous fun and the Bankers riders really impressed me with their spirit and how hard they rode the course.” As the Heart and Stroke Big Bike was propelled down the street by the ‘Wetaskiwin Bankers’, which illustrates how any group of people, when working together, can make a difference.
The “Wetaskiwin Bankers” continuing support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation is important to the mission, “to eliminate death and disability from heart disease and stroke”. Currently in Canada the statistics are rising and without fundraised dollars, the Foundation would not be able to fund lifesaving research.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation has an ambitious goal: to reduce Canadians’ rate of death from heart disease and stroke by 25 per cent by 2020. To help achieve this goal, the Foundation has made an unprecedented commitment to research, pledging $300 million over 10 years to 19 of Canada’s leading institutions. This pledged funding is a commitment that will support long-term research planning.
• 69,000 Canadians die each year from heart disease and stroke
• reduce the death rate from heart disease and stroke by 25% by 2020
• invested $1.35 B in research over the past 60 years
• $300M dollars will be contributed to institutions over the next 10 years
One in three Canadians will be affected with heart disease and stroke and it is the #1 killer of Canadian women, more than any cancers combined. In 2012 we will invest a total of $3.1 million in provincial research programs and fund 75 researchers based in Alberta through national and provincial grants and awards.”
For more information or if groups would like to book a Big Bike ride please contact Karen Jackman at 403-343-7091. For more information about Heart and Stroke go to www.heartandstroke.ca