Heroes exist in many forms

Pictou-Advocate-opinion

We were delighted to be in the audience last week when the Sear’s National Kids Cancer Ride rolled out of town.

Teams of cyclists are on a journey from the nation’s coast to coast raising funds for and awareness of cancer, more specifically, kids’ cancer. It began in Vancouver on September 6 and ended in Halifax on September 23.

According to its website, The National Kids Cancer Ride is one of the biggest and most ambitious charity cycling events on behalf of childhood cancer in the world and is now in its 10th year.

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Riding in relay style, the selected national riders put their hearts on the line and cycled for the cause. Together, they raise millions of dollars for charities that improve the quality of life for children, and their families, living with and beyond cancer.

While there was no Pictou County cyclist making the journey, there was a cyclist with county connections.

Michelle Donais is the niece of Pictou County’s Florence van Veen and Rose van Veen. On Friday, a large number of family members turned out bright and early to show their support for Michelle as she continued on her journey with the Ride.

According to her local family members, Michelle lost her mother in December after a long struggle with cancer, and her father is also struggling with several cancers. The cyclist with the huge heart spends a lot of her free time volunteering with children who have cancer.

Carrying signs and banners with words of encouragement and support, they joined with others who gathered collectively to cheer on the group.

It was emotional, heart-warming and incredibly inspirational.

Michelle wrote in a blog: “Like many people I know, cancer has also touched my family, and I’ve seen and met countless children who have lived with and bravely battled cancer. And through the years, I’ve heard and experienced stories of hope and inspiration. In fact, five years ago I was inspired by an incredible young lady, who I met my first year at Camp Quality (and who is now in her first year university) to buy my first road bike.”

It seems as if the inspired is now doing the inspiring.

Jeana’s Girls were also in attendance to see the cyclists off to their next stop.

This brave group of girls has been fundraising to support cancer research since the death of their friend, Jeana Mae English, on October 9, 2015, from cancer. She was just 13.

On this day in particular, they were off to the Children’s Wish Heroes Challenge in Halifax where each team is challenged to come up with $10,000 — the average cost of a wish. Showing true human compassion, they first stopped in to the Bike Ride to show their support for another hero, that of Michelle Donais.

A hush fell over the crowd that gathered around the cyclists before takeoff to hear heartfelt words about their friend offered by Nina Davey, one of Jeana’s Girls, who spoke passionately and emotionally about their friend. There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

Heroes don’t all wear capes and fly through the air. Some ride bicycles and journey across the country; others are teenagers who show that love and compassion lives forever in the hearts and minds of the willing.

We were privileged to have witnessed it.