Rich Peers began running to support Grand River Hospital and the fight against cancer after losing his father to the disease five years ago. Initially involved with Run Waterloo, he eventually decided to create a fundraising event of his own.
The grassroots event Job Runners 24hr Run/Walk for GRRCC (Grand River Regional Cancer Centre) supports the cancer centre directly without any intermediaries.
“My father passed away in 2015 of pancreatic cancer. Being involved in something was important to me and supporting the hospital-Grand River Hospital is up there on the priority list,” explained Peers. “I had an opportunity to run for a fundraiser in 2015 for Run Waterloo and I chose the cancer centre as that goal.”
“Five years ago, Rich came up with this idea about taking your ambition and turning it into something bigger to impact more people than just [himself],” said Merlin Frey, an Elmira resident that has been running alongside Peers since last year’s event. Frey is one of 11 participants enduring a 24-hour run for differing reasons at this year’s outing. (Runners’ tales of how cancer has affected their lives are available on the event’s Facebook page.)
Athletes are running throughout the region, with some local routes in the mix. Frey, for example, will be heading out on Elmira’s Lions Trail, where he will be doing 67 laps. Another runner will be doing a section of the Kissing Bridge Trail. Usually, the group would run together in a centralized location, but to prevent coronavirus transmission, they will be running paths of their own. Peers, however, has his own goal of visiting each of his fellow participants.
The general goal is to run for 24 hours, but Peers aims to meet his personal goal of 100 miles even if it takes longer than one day to complete the cycle. Last year, Peers’ event was able to raise $10,000 through direct donations and auction sales. With the coronavirus pandemic, their goal has been lowered to $8,000, reaching a milestone of $25,000 over the last three years.
“All donations, all proceeds are 100 per cent channeled into the hospital, right for the cancer centre alone. It’s not about marketing, research or anything like that – it’s about patient care in the cancer centre. And that’s one thing that I like about it,” said Frey.
Donations can be made online at the events Canadahelps page by searching for GRRCC. The current tally is $1,435.
Peers is also collecting items for an online auction. Those interested in donating to the cause can contact him at (email@example.com). And t-shirts are also available for sale for $20, benefiting GRRCC directly.
For many ultra-long distant runners, they reach a point during their experience of self-doubt and have to battle their minds. Having the social component stripped away this year due to the pandemic makes it all the more challenging, said Peers. However, runners plan to call one another throughout their journeys to share their experiences.
The runners will begin their treks at 6 a.m. on October 24, rain or shine. ‘We Endure Together’ is the motto for this year’s event, and like those that experience cancer, they will endure their runs no matter the situation, he noted.