Sixteen of the country’s top prostate researchers are meeting in Whitehorse this month and it’s partly because of Mike Thorpe.

“Mike is very much responsible for this,” said Garry Janz, president of Ride for Dad – a non-profit organization that raises money and awareness about prostate cancer. Thorpe is co-chair of the Whitehorse branch. “Without Mike’s enthusiasm, it may never have happened.”

That enthusiasm is part of the reason Thorpe was given a national volunteer award by the organization this year.

Thorpe said he was surprised by the local board when they told him, during a conference call with the national body, that he’d been chosen as a recipient of the volunteer award, which is given out to a handful of Ride for Dad board members each year.

“I appreciate it a lot,” Thorpe said. “People who volunteer don’t typically volunteer for recognition, but it’s nice to get it when you do. It’s always appreciated.”

Janz said Thorpe was nominated because he’s been an outstanding member of the organization ever since he became involved.

Thorpe moved to the Yukon almost 15 years ago, to take over the Whitehorse McDonald’s. Around the same time, he developed an interest in motorcycles.

In 2009, when original co-chairs Al and Leah Verishine were establishing the local Ride for Dad chapter, Leah asked Thorpe to be a sponsor. She knew Thorpe through their work with the Special Olympics. What she didn’t know was that Thorpe’s own grandfather had died of prostate cancer.

“He fit that exact stereotype of… someone who doesn’t like doctors or hospitals,” Thorpe said.

Thorpe has since become even more involved, not only serving as co-chair, but also being one of the top fundraisers for the event each year.

“Mike is just full of positive energy. He’s just supercharged and he’s a very smart guy as well,” Janz said. “He does so much for the local Ride for Dad community, but he also assists us at the national level. Because of his national experience with McDonald’s he finds it easy to think nationally as well as locally. That fits in perfectly with Ride for Dad.”

Ride for Dad started in Ottawa in 2000, and has grown to have 41 chapters across Canada. The organization holds a summit every year. This is the first year it has featured a panel of working researchers, and it’s the first year it’s been held in the north.

“We in the Yukon are blessed with a board who meet regularly and pour their efforts into making this happen,” said Sean Secord, Thorpe’s co-chair. He said there wasn’t originally going to be a 2017 summit because there was no place to host it.

“We stepped up and said we could,” he said.

Secord expects 50 to 75 members from across the country to attend the summit, taking place from October 12 to 14. It consists of a conference as well as social gatherings, held at the Westmark Hotel and Conference Centre, the Old Fire Hall and the Transportation Museum.

Top prostate researchers from across Canada will speak on the work they’re doing in the realm of prostate cancer. They include Dr. Christina Addison, with the Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute; Dr. Tarek Bismar, with the University of Calgary; and Dr. Juanita Crook, an oncologist with the B.C. Cancer Agency.

The talk is the only part of the summit that’s open to the public. It’s free, and takes place from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 14.

Members of the public are asked to RSVP through national@ridefordad.ca, though an RSVP is not necessary to attend.