“This August I am taking part in the Great Cycle Challenge Canada to fight kids’ cancer,” exclaims Ken Cowie of Sturgeon Falls, and the 73-year-old has a very personal reason for doing so. Starting at age 71, this is his 3rd year in the annual challenge in support of the Hospital for Sick Children, with a goal of riding 150 km in the month of August and raising at least $200. “I am riding for Gabby,” he says of his 11-year-old granddaughter, who has been fighting inoperable brainstem cancer since she was diagnosed at just 3 years old.
The prognosis is not terrifically encouraging, acknowledges Cowie, but he’s not one to give up hope, or spare his own efforts. “She was doing very good, but now the tumor is growing again. So she’s going back for treatment again and in Vancouver.” His granddaughter lives in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Ken Cowie meets up with her regularly on Facetime, encouraging the young girl. He is supporting SickKids Foundation because they are the largest charitable funder of child health research, learning and care in Canada, and one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions.
Cowie lived in Sturgeon Falls for 14 years, moved to Mattawa for 19 years, and returned to Sturgeon Falls 3 years ago. He sports a t-shirt supplied by the Great Cycle Challenge, one of the biggest cycling events in the country, to bring awareness to the national cause. “Right now, 1700 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, and it’s the biggest killer of children from disease in Canada,” he informs. “Kids should be living life, not fighting for it. So, I am raising funds through my challenge to help these kids and support SickKids Foundation to allow them to continue their work in developing treatments and finding a cure for childhood cancer.”
The Great Cycle Challenge started 7 years ago; 115,000 riders from all provinces and territories in that time have cycled 20.1 million km and raised more than $39.3 million for research. This year they hope to have more than 15,000 riders, including Ken Cowie. He hopes others will join in the endeavour. “This is the third time I have participated. During those years I rode 362 km and raised $717.” You will be seeing Ken riding his bike throughout West Nipissing. “I try to stay off Hwy 17, but I like to go to Verner. I go almost to Lavigne, and I go to Garden Village.” He would appreciate all acknowledgments; you can wave at him, encourage him when you see him, any donations are appreciated, and he invites anyone else who wants to accompany him by setting up their own challenge (visit GreatCycleChallenge.ca). The money donated goes directly to the cause by donating to greatcyclechallenge.ca/Riders/KenCowie
At 73 years of age, Cowie is a seasoned cyclist. He spends winters in Florida and cycles a lot during his time there. “But here I try to do every couple of days, pending the weather.” How does he calculate his kilometres? “I have a GPS and I record where I go, how fast I go, how long it takes, and how many kilometers each time.” It doesn’t take him that long to reach his financial goal. Two years ago, his goal was the same $200, but he topped $500. He said most of his supporters donate $20 to $30 dollars to the cause. “They just put in that amount, because they know I want to do 150 kilometers in 30 days.”
For Cowie, it’s personal, but it’s also an enjoyable endeavour that is gratefully acknowledged by the organizers. “They write me every time a donation comes in. There are levels that they sort of tell me – when I get $150 or $100. …And they always, always write me congratulations, you know, for getting more donations.” His sense of achievement is met when he reaches his personal goal, but over and above that, his granddaughter Gabby knows that he is always thinking of her when he rides the roads of West Nipissing.