When Michael Hill’s mother-in-law called to say someone had abandoned a bicycle in her garden near Mount Douglas Park, he never imagined he’d do much with it. But something inspired him to fix up the old clunker and take it for a ride.
“I went for a 5K ride and thought, that’s it, I’m dying,” he says, laughing.
But the Victoria native had already signed on to cycle hundreds of kilometres in the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer, inspired by friends and family around him who had been affected by or treated for the devastating disease.
Four years later, Hill and 30 teammates will hop on their bikes once more to cruise the two-day, 200 km ride through the Pacific Northwest to raise money for cancer research.
Hill’s longtime friend and teammate, Darren Westwood, says they started Team Nova to honour his father, who he lost to lung cancer 10 years ago. The team is slated to raise $85,000 this year, and Westwood says they’ve already seen money they’ve raised put to work here on the Island at the BC Cancer Agency.
“We can also direct which type of cancer the research money goes to,” he says. “It’s a local feel to it, and that’s why we wanted to be part of it.”
Drena Hill, Michael’s wife and team captain, says five members of Team Nova are cancer survivors and some are still in treatment. “It’s amazing to see when they say first hand, we do make a difference. People think $5 is nothing, but it changes lives.”
As the trio prepare to travel to the Lower Mainland where the ride kicks off Saturday (Aug. 26) in Cloverdale, they’re excited; 300 new riders will participate in B.C.’s ninth year down the course. It’s like a family reunion of 2,100 people, Drena says, some of whom are now lifelong friends.
Teams will spend the night together camping in Mount Vernon, WA and cross the finish line Sunday in Redmond.
“When you get to that finish line you see families, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers,” Westwood says. “We were crying fools the first year we came across that finish line. It’s definitely emotional.”
“Nobody should fight cancer alone,” he says, a mantra that has extended to Team Nova’s philosophy. The team’s 30 riders range in age from 21 to 70 years old, with a range of skill and ability.
“Nobody rides alone,” Hill says. “Together we do make a difference.”