(Photo submitted by Roy Jack)
Roy Jack has been an avid cyclist for a rather long time. And now the 44-year-old Ahousaht First Nation member is once again combining his cycling love with a worthy cause, raising funds in support of research to develop treatments and hopefully a cure for childhood cancer.
Jack, who lives in Nanaimo, started tracking how far he cycled after downloading an app on his phone a couple of years ago. Soon afterwards he discovered registration was open for the Great Cycle Challenge. This annual event, available to cyclists across Canada, encourages riders to register and then raise funds for the amount of kilometres they cycle during the month of June.
“Two years ago I rode about 600-700 kilometres and I raised zero dollars,” Jack said. “It was a little discouraging. But I didn’t advocate it a whole bunch.”
Despite his initial setback, Jack decided to register for the event again in 2018. But this time he was telling as many people as he could about what he was doing. Jack ended up cycling more than 900 kilometres last June. And he ended up raising about $1,000.
As for this year, Jack is once again planning to take part in the Great Cycle Challenge. He’s hoping to at least double the amount of money he raised a year ago. And he’s planning to ride about 1,200 kilometres during the month this time around.
In 2018 Jack managed to rack up the majority of his kilometres during five lengthy one-day trips. His longest journey was about 190 kilometres, from Nanaimo to Tofino.
Jack also racked up 110 kilometres by spending a day cycling around Vancouver.
A year ago he ended up taking just one day off work to concentrate on his cycling event.
“This year I’m looking to get a least a week off work,” said Jack, who is a supervisor at a recycling centre in Nanaimo. “I’m saving up some vacation days for that now.”
Jack does not consider his long bike rides to be overly strenuous.
“I’ve been a pretty active cyclist most of my life,” he said. “I felt this was something I could do to raise awareness.”
Jack added a number of family members have had cancer over the years. But none of them were children.
“I just like to bike,” he added. “Before (this event) I would make it a point to do several long bike rides each year.”
And Jack was rather encouraged to see others step up and pledge funds for his cycling efforts last year.
“The more support I got the more I wanted to be that person raising awareness,” he said.
During the first three years of the Great Cycle Challenge participants from all 10 provinces and three territories collectively cycled more than 6.7 million kilometres. And they raised almost $7.9 million in the process. The main stipulation of the cycling challenge is that only kilometres cycled during the month of June can count towards one’s total. There is no minimum or maximum amount of kilometres than can be logged. Participants also choose how many days of the month they wish to cycle. And they can accumulate their miles outdoors or even indoors on a stationary or spin bike.
“Virtually anybody can do it,” Jack said. “Last year there were a few hundred people from British Columbia that did it.”
Jack said he hasn’t heard of anyone else who is Indigenous who has participated in the ride.
“Especially in my community or on Vancouver Island I haven’t heard of anyone else who is Indigenous doing this,” he said. “And I have not seen or heard of any Nuu-chah-nulth individuals taking part.”
Jack is hoping not only Nuu-chah-nulth members but also Indigenous people from across the country consider donating to his fundraising cycling efforts this year. It will be some point this spring before the fundraising pages for participants will be open for donations.
Jack said he doesn’t mind the fact he cycles by himself. In fact, he prefers it that way.
“I like to go at my own pace,” he said. “I think it would be difficult to go at somebody else’s pace.”