Eleanor Longstaff has been with the Elmira-area Ride and Stride committee since the beginning, when her husband Ralph was asked to help out. They eventually got their daughters involved and later the grandchildren as well. Later, both sisters’ nursing education came in handy at the event. Even from childhood the family played various roles. Two years after Ralph passed away, they are planning for the April 27 event as a whole family.
“I guess they didn’t have too much help and Ralph put the stakes in,” Longstaff said of her clan’s initial involvement.
Her grandchildren got involved as teens, putting the time towards their school volunteer hours. Longstaff’s daughter Kelly Haid still remembers her first year at the event.
“I started when I was 13 years old, my dad said ‘we’re going in this.’ Mom helped with registration and the next thing I knew we were the root support and the first aid … and then you just never leave, ” said Haid.
A tradition passed from one generation to another in several local families for almost 30 years, participation in Elmira’s annual Ride and Stride has ebbed and flowed over the years.
“Some of the people from the committee that I run have been with us from the beginning. They have just been absolutely wonderful,” said Sarah Bradshaw, chair of the Woolwich Great Ride and Stride.
As the Canadian Cancer Society’s first outdoor event of the 2014 season, the Ride and Stride experiences fluctuating participation numbers, while some riders, runners and walkers show up every year, she added. Still, the event has enough tradition behind it to persevere.
“We have a number of people who come every year and then there are people who come because someone has been touched. We find that a family will gather up a whole bunch of people to come and participate. Then they may drift off in subsequent years. As people have the energy and time, and if the weather is nice it’s a big advantage.”
The 4-, 10-, or 20-kilometre course along the Kissing Bridge Trail can be customized for running, walking or cycling. There’ll be refreshments at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. All funds raised for the event will go towards research and support services for people in Waterloo Region living with cancer.
The Ride and Stride has had a presence in Waterloo Region for 36 years, with two rides in the City of Waterloo and Elmira. There are five other Ride and Stride events, including one in Wilmot Township.
This year’s event will pay tribute to Austin Whittom of Elmira, a St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School student who succumbed to cancer earlier this year.
“It’s important to acknowledge not only the survivors among us but also the impact of those who have really fought courageously but unfortunately the cancer got the better of them. I think it’s important to do a tribute to him and his journey,” said Bradshaw.
Ending the month of spring fundraising and awareness at the association, the Ride and Stride will take place April 27 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, with registration noon followed by the opening ceremonies. Riders and runners will leave for the trails at 1 p.m.