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Taking the fundraising efforts, but not cancer, in stride

The Great Ride N’ Stride for cancer research is once again fast approaching the people of Woolwich. Held for more than 30 years in the township, this year’s event on April 29 will also mark the 40th Ride N’ Stride to take place in Waterloo Region.

For those looking to get involved, now is the time to be raising funds and donating, with the ride just over a week away. The money all goes towards the Canadian Cancer Society’s  goal of funding cancer research, and to date, just the Woolwich event alone has raised in excess of $300,000. Last year, $8,000 was raised in the township, and the group is reaching for $10,000 this time around.

“Each year we sort of wonder, ‘is this going to get people out? Are they still going to be interested?’ And every year we have another really good healthy crowd,” said Sarah Bradshaw, an Elmira resident who serves as chair for the Woolwich Ride N’ Stride.

This year, it’s starting off from just outside the Woolwich Memorial Centre. It’s a non-competitive event, suitable families and people of all ages, notes Bradshaw, and can be walked, run or biked as people prefer.

“We’ve had some families who have been really deeply touched,” she said. “We often have a lot of young people out at these events but there are also grandparents [as well]. So it’s really about bringing people together and having a common cause.”

Bradshaw will be speaking to participants a bit about some of the progress made in cancer treatment. With the illness being so ubiquitous, it may not always seem like change is happening, but Bradshaw notes that that is far from the case. And as a cancer survivor herself, she’s experienced firsthand the lifesaving advances made possible through fundraisers like the Great Ride N’ Stride.

People’s survival rates have improved immensely, though incrementally, in the last several decades, while progress is constantly being made in making treatments more effective and less debilitating. One of the modern developments to take place in the labs has been in targeting cancer cells specifically with radiation treatments.

“So we’ve made huge strides, especially in certain types of cancers. For example, I’m a breast cancer survivor, I had breast cancer in 2009, and it was fairly advanced when they caught it. But my treatment was very much tailored to what they knew about how my cancer had developed,” explained Bradshaw.

“It’s what we call now this personalized medicine where they can do biopsy work that tells them exactly how target those cancer cells, which kind of medication, which kind of chemotherapy treatment to give you, and it has really reduced the amount of drastic surgery that is done, and over medication.”

That’s key because treatments like chemotherapy, where the patient’s body is bombarded with radiation, can be incredibly debilitating.

“So the less of it they can do, the better. Every stride they can make in terms of targeting the treatments rather than blasting someone with a wide-array of medication, it’s better for that patient’s outcome,” explained Bradshaw.

This year’s Ride N’ Stride kicks off from the WMC and heads along Snyder Avenue towards the Kissing Bridge Trail. From there, participants can take two paths depending on how far they would like to go: either follow along Floradale or take the Side Road 18 at Wallenstein. Back at the WMC, there will be music and food donated by local businesses.

“This is a fun and in many ways a joyful event, because it gathers people together and makes a difference,” she said.

Bradshaw herself actually came to be involved with the Woolwich Ride N’ Stride before she even found out she had cancer. It was seeing her friend diagnosed that motivated her to help.

“She was diagnosed with breast cancer and unfortunately it was a very aggressive kind and she didn’t survive longer than a few years and was constantly having treatment. So I needed to do something to, what I say is, make meaning of that tragedy,” she says.

People who wish to register to fundraise or donate can head online at www.greatride.ca, or can contact Bradshaw at 519-669-2599.

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