Jeff Bandura has been part of the Ride for Hope fundraiser since its 2007 inception and through the years, he’s gladly absorbed every knuckleball Mother Nature has flung at him and his fellow riders.
From choking, record heat to monsoon-like rainfall, the avid cyclist has come to expect the unexpected.
“Last year it was hit-and-miss and a few years ago, we had the hottest temperatures recorded [that day]. I think it was 40 degrees we were riding in, and the next year it was a downpour until just outside of Chilliwack,” recalled Bandura, a Vancouver Canucks alumnus who manages the Adult Safe Hockey League at Langley Twin Rinks.
The 2012 event is this Wednesday, July 11 and Bandura is optimistic about the weather (clear sky, daytime high hitting 25 degrees Celsius).
“This year, looking at the long-term forecast, we’re good,” Bandura predicted.
Covering 200 kilometres from South Surrey to Hope, the cycling trip raises awareness and funds for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, a health care facility that provides specialized care for children living with life-threatening illnesses, as well as support for the children’s families.
Heading into this, the sixth year of the fundraiser, close to $310,000 has been donated to Canuck Place through Ride for Hope.
Bandura was among the convoy of cyclists who made the inaugural journey on July 4, 2007.
“This was kind of a wing-it ride to start with five years ago,” he said. “We kind of knew what we were doing as far as bike riding but we didn’t know the logistics of how long it would take. Now we’ve evolved and developed this into a first-class charity ride.”
Bandura returns year after year because he believes so strongly in the cause.
“It’s dear to my heart, with not only the association with the Vancouver Canucks and the Canuck Alumni, but Canuck Place and the Canucks for Kids Fund,” he said. “It’s in our backyard. It’s who we are. You can see where the dollars are going at Canuck Place in Vancouver on Matthews [Avenue] and the new one in Abbotsford. The families in need, they’re there for them.”
Some of the riders, past and present, know first-hand about the work Canuck Place has done in the past.
Last year, Rob Neufeld rode in memory of his grandson Noah. Born with a heart condition, Noah died in 2008. He was 28 days old.
Canuck Place was there every step of the way to help Noah’s family through his life, and death.
Neufeld was one of 42 hardy cyclists who took part in the 2011 ride, which raised more than $137,000.
Team Alliance cyclists taking part this year will be on Ridley Noah bikes, in honour of Noah.
“He’s gone through it,” Bandura said, regarding Neufeld. “He lost his grandson. It’s sad, but if we can help out in even a small way, it’s a great thing. That’s what makes the ride special. You have so many different riders from different walks of life and they all share common stories.”
With Canuck Place expanding to the eastern Fraser Valley, this year’s ride is extra special.
Construction is underway for a 10-bed, five family suite, 30,000 square foot hospice in Abbotsford, which will essentially double the capacity of Canuck Place.
The Abbotsford location will reduce travel time for kids and their families who live outside of Metro Vancouver.
“Next year, during the ride, they are asking if we could do a drive-by the facility because it’s going to be that close to opening,” Bandura said.
On Wednesday, the anticipated 54 cyclists taking part are scheduled to wheel into the Willoughby London Drugs location at roughly 10 a.m. Upon their arrival, a cheque presentation will take place on behalf of Canlan Ice Sports.
Cheryl Lydynuik is about to embark on her second Ride. She has a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter and has known people who have lost their children to cancer.
“It’s for a good cause,” she said.
She said the ambulance-and-police escorted ride “has its moments” difficulty-wise, but said the cyclists stay close together, which helps.
“If the weather holds out, it’s fairly comfortable,” she said.
For those who want to give the team a send-off, the cyclists will be leaving the Morgan Crossing London Drugs at 9 a.m. sharp Wednesday.
Among the Vancouver Canucks alumni taking part this year are Terry Bingley, Gary Nylund, Dean Malkoc, and Phil Von Steffanelli.
To learn more about the Ride or make an online donation, visit www.ride4hope.ca. Donations are welcome, and gratefully accepted, before or after the ride.