he Great Cycle Challenge is one of the annual fundraiser s conducted by the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) in Sydney.
This year saw the event return in its third instalment and even bigger yet. It kicked off on 1st October with over 8,000 riders from all walks of life across Australia and beyond signed up to help raise funds and awareness for kids fighting cancer. Entry is free and each rider raising more than $500 has been given a free jersey. Fundraising and riding goals are set individually by each rider and can range from 1 km to a few hundred km. Family, friends, colleagues and local businesses then sponsor the cycling efforts via each rider’s individual fundraising page.
Being a keen mountain biker, I signed up for the inaugurate Great Cycling Challenge in 2013 and raised $3,500. It was such a humbling experience and one of the best things I have participated in, so I didn’t hesitate to sign up again in 2014, raising nearly $9000 with the generous support of family, friends, students, parents and staff of Al Siraat College as well as the wider local community.
Donations were made from not only Australia but also Germany, the UK, Norway, Finland, Indonesia, the US and New Zealand. We organised a balloon race, icy pole and chocolate fundraisers on Eid and at Al Siraat and I was also invited to do a radio interview with the BBC German broadcast.
This year, my 8-year-old daughter Mariam asked to join me in riding for kids fighting cancer and we have set our riding goal to 1,061 km which is equivalent to riding the distance from Al Siraat College in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs to the Children’s Medical Research Institute in Westmead, Sydney. This means I have been peddling an average 35 km every day throughout October. Being a full-time working mother of two, this has taken most of my free time during the week and on the weekends. We have been updating our supporters on our virtual progress on a weekly basis and arrived in time at the CMRI on 31st October when the riding part of the GCC officially came to an end.
Funds however can still be donated until the end of November when the final amount will be released by the CMRI. So far, the fundraising figure stands at over $2.5 million, the goal the event organizers had hoped for: What a fabulous amount and what a great achievement from everyone involved. While I knew that topping last year’s amount would be hard, I did not expect for us to raise over $4,700 once again this year. It is deeply humbling to see how generous our community is supporting this cause so close to my heart. I lost both my grandmothers to cancer when I was young, have seen one of my best friend’s mother lose the battle against lung cancer and know friends who have recently been tested for and diagnosed with cancer, having witnessed the toll this has taken not only on them but also their families and friends.
When I found out that Rebecca, my friend’s 5-year-old daughter (in Germany) has been hospitalised since the start of the year, signing up for this year’s GCC simply became a matter of “How can I NOT do it again?” My grandmothers lived fulfilled lives and could spend time with their family and loved ones, butseeing a child in hospital simply breaks my heart. There is so much pain and suffering involved for the family, sleepless hours waiting and praying and hoping against all odds. Rebecca’s mother has created a blog on Facebook and following her journey from being in a one month coma and on a ventilator for weeks, then recovering in baby steps just shatters your soul. Then I look at my own children, see them at school, playing with their friends, exploring the world around them. That life is robbed from cancer kids. They should be out there too, living a full life, laughing and playing and for their parents to see them grow up rather than fading away and trying to fight off this vicious disease. Still, it is incredible to witness the inner strength and courage these kids exhibit and it leaves me in awe. While their little bodies are so weak and fatigued, their will power and bravery are mind blowing. It takes a lot of heart to stay positive and keep getting up, battling chemo and cancer treatments for months. I told my daughters: “These kids are real life superheroes without a cape!”
I have spoken to my two daughters, aged nearly 12 and 8 years of age a lot about my commitment towards gravely ill children and try to make them understand that health is something we only seem to be taking seriously until it is suddenly taken away from us. My elder daughter was in hospital last year with pneumonia which came as a shock for us all. So my Year 3 grader Mariam, a member of our College’s Student Representative Council, decided that she would like to do whatever she can as a child to help other children less fortunate than her. While she is still quite young, she understands that making a difference does not depend on age. She loves bike riding and has put her legs to the test this month to give some hope back to kids fighting cancer. Our neighbour Brooke also noticed Mariam being on her bike on a regular basis and has commented how “enthralled she is to see someone as young as Mariam taking a stand for other kids less fortunate than herself.” However, our challenge would have been nothing without the kind-hearted support from everyone who has so selflessly and generously contributed with their donations as well as their beautiful and encouraging words, comments and prayers.
My daughters and I also flew to Sydney in September 2014 and met event managers Nermeen Yacoub and Greg Johnson at the CMRI. We saw first- hand how money raised in events like the GCC are used to fund much needed cancer research. Leading scientist and researcher Dr. Hamish Campbell explained to us how said funds had indeed enabled his research team to make a number of vital discoveries, including a test that will help identify some of the most aggressive types of cancers.
While the riding challenge has now finished for Mariam and I, a much harder challenge continues day after day for these amazing kids. Thus, our greatest thanks goes to all the children out there fighting cancer who have shown us what true courage really is. You bounce back from rounds of chemotherapy still smiling and have inspired thousands of people across Australia and beyond. Thank you for letting us be part of your journey and for touching our hearts.
Donations to help change little lives can still be made until the end of November via Tanya&Mariam’s fundraising page: www.greatcyclechallenge.com.au/Riders/TanyaKubitza