HERMON, Maine — The riders were wet and cold in Thursday’s rain, but their purpose was weatherproof. They were raising money to fight cancer.
Fifty-two bicyclists, divided into teams of six or seven each, made their way across Maine on Thursday on their third day of pedaling since leaving Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Tuesday morning. They are bound for Austin, Texas, where they will meet Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, whose organization the Lance Armstrong Foundation received $225,000 as a result of last year’s ride.
So far, the Tony Griffin Foundation bicyclists have raised approximately $400,000 this year. Besides Armstrong’s foundation, Ovarian Cancer Canada and Craig’s Cause for Pancreatic Cancer also will benefit from the ride.
Tony Griffin, 27, of Ennis, Ireland, started the nonprofit foundation when he decided to bike more than 4,400 miles across Canada and Ireland to raise money to fight cancer in 2007, after having lost his father to lung cancer in 2005, according to the foundation’s Web site. Griffin raised more than $650,000 in less than seven months, the Web site indicated. Griffin is a professional hurler (a game similar to lacrosse), and has an honors degree in economics and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology.
Griffin ignited a volunteer movement, and this year riders ages 15 to 64 from Nova Scotia, Calgary, Toronto and other Canadian provinces and a couple of people from the United States are taking part in the bike ride, which will culminate in Armstrong’s Livestrong Challenge on Oct. 25 and 26, in Austin, Texas, according to one of the team captains, Haley McInnis, 23, of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Seventy-five cents of every dollar actually goes toward the three charities the group has targeted, and the rest is used to help defray the expenses of the volunteer group, she said. Tony Griffin Foundation has no paid employees, she said.
McInnis spoke Thursday by cell phone about the group’s mission from the warmth of the support van that accompanies the riders. She had pedaled the morning leg, and had just gotten off her bike in Hermon, where the group had stopped at a local store. Each rider pedals approximately 68 miles each day, about five hours of biking, taking turns resting in the van, she said. Those in the van were encouraging those pedaling up the hills through Hermon, Carmel and Etna as McInnis explained the team’s plans.
Each day is broken up into three legs, she said. Thursday’s legs were from Calais to Aurora, from Aurora to Canaan and from Canaan to Lancaster, N.H. The group had crossed into Calais from St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Wednesday night.
McInnis said some of the team’s highlights in Maine included a dead moose they saw in the back of a pickup truck in Calais, lots of beautiful scenery and the realization that the state’s terrain is not as flat as they originally had thought.
The teams are being sponsored by SunLife Financial of Canada and Gatorade. Readers can follow the teams’ progress on their blog at www.tonygriffinfoundation.com.