Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why We Ride, Why We Work

There’s a world of reasons to gather a group of dedicated, socially aware individuals and create a team to Ride to Conquer Cancer.  There’s also a world of reasons to assemble a group of dedicated, global-focused colleagues to create a team to help ensure more and better engineering.

Believe it or not, those reasons can be one and the same: the well-being of our families, friends, neighbours – and of the world we live in.
All those goals came together in June as Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert and his “Team Painkiller” teammates mounted their bikes and completed the 200 Kilometer Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.  Pedaling from Toronto to Niagara over two days, they raised almost $40,000 to benefit the Campbell Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, and the whole ride raised just over $18 million.

A great cause - cancer research - deserves a great effort. Here are a few tired but happy
Team Painkiller members at the end of Day One in Hamilton, Ontario. 

As noted in an earlier blog post, Paul and his teammates trained rigorously for the Ride.  A number of personal objectives spurred him on, including the wish to get in better physical shape, and the desire to set an example to his children to be socially aware. 
Paul sees a strong connection between encouraging increased research on curing cancer and Quanser’s corporate goal: to help educate talented global engineers who will tackle engineering’s grand challenges and, ultimately, engineer a better world.

To tell you more about the Ride experience, here’s Paul in his own words:
"Last Christmas, after I publicly announced my intention to ride during the Christmas period, I could not believe the support I immediately received from family, friends and acquaintances. I pretty much met my personal fund raising goals in the first month. I also asked a few Quanser vendors for sponsorship support and got so much feedback that we ran out of spaces on the riding jersey very quickly. A hearty thanks to all of you who donated and forced my hand, or should I say my legs, since receiving so much money for the cause meant I had no chance of backing out.

The build-up to the ride was intense, many hours of training in all weather conditions allowed the Painkiller Team to really bond, and this shared experience was really helpful on the weekend of the Ride. A long ride like this is physically and mentally challenging, so to have good friends nearby at moments of weakness was invaluable, especially during some long arduous climbs.
Anyone who has done this ride knows about the final seven kilometer ascent to the campground in Hamilton at the end of the first day—to do it in a torrential downpour was something I wouldn't wish on a living soul. However, shortly after we arrived, ironically in glorious sunshine with steam coming off our backs, we went directly to the oasis, that is, to free beer and massage tents. At this point we were euphoric. Day One was over and there was only 100 kilometers left to go the next day.

Team Painkiller completed the Ride and raised $40,000 for cancer research.
 Members of the team gather at the end of the Ride and Day Two in Niagara. 
Quanser CEO Paul Gilbert is standing in the first row at far left.
Almost 5,000 people gathered to share stories of the first day’s ride and enjoy the food and entertainment. It’s hard to describe how it feels to be amongst so many people who have given so much of themselves. Suffice it to say, it was a great crowd. We shared tears of laughter and the occasional howl of pain as cramping started to kick in.

Day Two was hot and sweaty, 40 degrees Celsius for the most part, and it took a good 20 kilometers of riding to warm our muscles up; oh my lord, it was hard. We stopped for a rest every 20 or 25 kilometers and received supplies to keep us going. Probably the best moment of the weekend was when someone decided to dump a bucket of ice cold water over my head.

Paul Gilbert and his wife Joanne at Ride's end, by the Niagara River and Niagara Falls.
The final 20 kilometers were very uplifting and emotional.  To give you an idea, the whole team decided to bike as a group, ending the Ride going past the finish line two by two with two cancer survivors in the front , and an enormous cheering crowd all around. All the pain of the training and ride disappeared at that moment. I can honestly say the Ride is one of the top things I have ever done in my life and, yes, I am signed up to do it again next year."

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