This has been a tough year for summer festivities in the Yukon. Some of the territory’s most well-attended and anticipated events have been cancelled, while others have gone virtual or scaled back. One of the summer’s most popular fundraisers, the Ride for Dad, has undergone some changes in response to COVID-19.
This is a milestone year for the ride, which is marking its 10th anniversary in the territory and 20th year nationally. The pandemic has definitely altered anniversary plans, but it has in no way dampened the spirits of organizers. Instead, they’ve turned this pandemic year into an opportunity for chapters across Canada to join forces like never before.
“This year has become about ensuring everyone’s safety, keeping the momentum going in prostate cancer awareness and fundraising, and national unity amongst all of the Ride for Dad chapters,” explained Yukon Ride for Dad’s Sean Secord.
“Although there are many communication channels amongst the chapters and the national head office…for the most part the chapters function in silos. This year’s Ride Alone Together campaign has allowed the whole country to partake in an initiative together.”
The Ride Alone Together (RAT) campaign encourages motorcyclists to go solo and respect physical distancing requirements, while being unified in their efforts to fundraise for prostate cancer research and awareness. The Yukon team has already raised almost $12,000, not bad for a small chapter (Ontario is currently at around $37,000).
Secord doesn’t seem surprised by the success of the campaign so far. “Yukoners are incredibly generous and stand behind a good cause no matter what,” he observed. “There are several much bigger chapters and rides across the country that repeatedly look to the Yukon in amazement that we raise more money with a much smaller population in an area where the summer riding season is the shortest.”
He is also quick to point out that no matter what the format, the event is about saving lives. Realizing this, participants and sponsors were quick to adapt to a virtual ride.
“We were late in getting messages out to our riders and supporters as we were trying to abide by the request to keep national messages consistent,” Secord said. “However, in the meantime, we had so many people calling, emailing, and stopping board members to ask what was going on. The excitement and support we have felt has been overwhelming and appears to be able to weather any changes or challenges.”
The Ride Alone Together also helps build momentum for the 10th anniversary Ride for Dad which will take place at Shipyards Park on Saturday, August 8. If all goes according to plan, the day-long celebration will feature “bike games, entertainment and comradery” including a parade through Whitehorse and a ride around the Tagish Loop. Organizers hope to end with food trucks in the park.
However, Secord cautions that all these plans depend on the vagaries of COVID-19, and organizers are prepared to “go with the flow.” Safety is the ultimate goal, so the event will be subject to physical distancing and whatever else may be required.
The pandemic reality also means that expectations have adjusted. While organizers one day hope to break the 200 rider mark, they recognize 2020 is not the year to reach that goal.
But while this year might not set any records, but for Secord it’s remarkable for other reasons:
“I think that what is being highlighted this year is people’s generosity and ability to roll with the changes. It is not about a parade or a ride. It is about awareness and funding innovative research so that we can keep men thinking about their prostate health – get checked to help find prostate cancer early when it’s fully treatable, and help fund research that will lead to better, more specific blood tests and screening approaches.”
Between RAT and the annual Ride for Dad, organizers hope to raise $1,000,000 across Canada in 2020. Since its national founding 20 years ago, the Ride has raised over $33 million. In its 10-year existence, the Yukon chapter has brought over $600,000.
“This money has allowed prostate cancer research to go in new directions and the projects that Yukon has contributed to are some of the most innovative in the world,” Secord said. “The awareness and fundraising [achieved] through Ride for Dad can be directly tied to the decreasing prostate cancer mortality rates seen in recent years. However, we still have a ways to go, and we’re very excited to be involved in research endeavours that may see substantial positive changes in cancer mortality in the near future.”
Secord’s overall message is one of optimism, resilience and community. It’s clear that COVID-19 has not derailed Ride for Dad’s efforts to make prostate cancer deaths a thing of the past.
“We are all in a pandemic together, but are staying apart for safety. Ride for Dad participants can continue to raise funds and keep the conversations going, and be safe in small rides, knowing that across the country, our Ride for Dad brothers and sisters are doing the same thing for the same reasons – Riding Alone Together.”
Folks interested in supporting the Ride for Dad can register or donate online at www.RideforDad.ca.