Nathan Skolski

Head of Media and Public Affairs at the British High Commission, Ottawa.

Part of UK in Canada

19th September 2012 Ottawa, Canada

“Brits on Bikes” for cancer research

I’ve discovered the wonders of spandex recently.

For the second year in a row, I’ve had the privilege to participate, with a number of my colleagues here at the British High Commission, in a terrific local charity event called Ride the Rideau. Our team, dubbed “Brits on Bikes”, is not made up of the athletic types and you won’t see us in the Tour de France any time soon, but we banded together to take on the challenge of riding our bicycles 100Km from Ottawa to the town of Merrickville-Wolford in an effort to raise money in support of world-class cancer research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. For many of us, it was a difficult physical and emotional journey.

Last year was a brilliant success. We (just barely) completed the full 100Km and raised nearly $8600. This year we would elevate our team fundraising goal to $10,500. Our training began early with weekend cycling trips ranging from 25km to 50km before graduating to 75km. Fundraising efforts soon followed. Our colleagues at the High Commission were spared the physical training but we relied on them heavily for financial support. They proved to be an incredibly generous bunch, eagerly participating in BBQs, bake sales, quiz nights, book sales and raffles throughout the summer. Together with generous corporate sponsorship from Aviva Canada and Clyde & Co Canada LLP, we raised just over $12,000 – beating our fundraising goal and bringing our two-year total to over $20,000!

The day of the ride over 700 riders, including 22 cancer survivors, gathered at the crack of dawn, despite the threats of inclement weather. Many of us were nervous, but we were above all excited to demonstrate our newly developed physical prowess after months of training.

Storm clouds gathered overhead and drops of rain began to fall as the sea of bicycles surged forward and the race began. Shouts of encouragement from organisers, family and friends eased our anxieties and we set off with a sense of pride and solidarity. It was an inspiring sight to behold, hundreds of people coming together, Canadian and British, to battle a horrific disease. Regardless of our nationalities, languages or backgrounds, we were each driven by similar memories of loved ones that had defiantly won or tragically lost their battle with a disease that respects no borders and that transcends culture.

Now for the bad news. 35 km into the ride violent thunderstorms forced organisers to cancel the ride. We were all disappointed but also thankful for the judgement and efficiency of organisers who dispatched buses to rescue all 700 riders. Ride the Rideau raised a whopping $1.72 million this year, making it Eastern Ontario’s most successful single-day cancer fundraiser.

In the end we did not get to complete our 100km but our team is now planning a makeup ride in the weeks to come – our spandex awaits.

1 comment on ““Brits on Bikes” for cancer research

  1. Congratulations to the generous and dedicated staff of the British High Commission. What an amazing fundraising achievement. You inspire us all.


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About Nathan Skolski

Nathan Skolski serves as Head of Media and Public Affairs at the British High Commission in Ottawa.

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