Thursday, October 9, 2008

Armstrong rides into local hearts with cancer fundraiser

Published: Sunday, September 28

Lance of a lifetime: Lance Armstrong saddles up for the Cedars Cancer Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, generating over one million dollars for cancer care.

Unless you've been living under a rock or have made it a mission to avoid any/all media, you know by now that the world's best-on-bike and inspirational cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, is returning to professional cycling to try for an unprecedented eighth Tour de France championship.

Pretty awesome stuff.

Even more awesome: just after that announcement, his Lance-ship jetted to our fair city for a Cedars super-weekend of fundraising and awareness-building likely to go down in Cedars history as its fête des fêtes.

Festivities got under way with the much-anticipated "Ride with Lance," an over-the-mountain fundraiser (literally!), chaired with elegance and purpose by international fitness centre mogul Leonard Schlemm, marketing master Louise Courey Nadeau, and Toronto-based McLean Budden CEO Roger Beauchemin.

Thirty-eight lucky cyclists had the coveted opportunity to join the Live Strong legend on a breathtaking 100-kilometre ride through the Laurentians.

Generous sponsors included the Mansfield Athletic Club, RBC Foundation, Roche Alcon Canada, Astral Media, Bombardier, GBC, Brown's, Grandma Emily, Beauward, Simard, Eska, the town of Mont Tremblant and the Sûreté du Québec.
Pumped up-participants each raised an impressive $25,000 (or more) for the cause.

Biking it up a notch were, among others, former Olympic cyclist Gervais Rioux; skier Connor O'Brien; hockey star Stephane Quintal, Gene Piccoli; fundraising phenom David Bryson; Bénoit St-Amant; legal eagle Mark Hanna; Robert D. Johnson; a power-pack of "power girls" (see photo); RBC Global Markets VP Stéphane Berubé; Bob Coté (who trained for a mere two weeks) and Charles Johnston, all bound by the chance to Lance and raise essential funds for the cause.
The race was based at tony Tremblant escape, the Quintessence (debonair managing partner Sean O'Donnell also participated), where riders enjoyed an energizing pre-cycle brunch.

Although the weather did not co-operate, the air was thick with exhilaration and emotion as Lance took fellow riders on the journey of their lives, making sure to spend several minutes cycling beside each of them.

"You didn't even notice the rain," said Ian Aitken of Pembroke Management. "This is something you dream about, actually it's beyond a dream."

In fact, many teared up alongside Lance as he touched their lives indelibly, inspiring in a way that defies description.

Armstrong took a few moments to share his sentiments: "It's an honour to be here in Quebec for this fundraiser today for a beautiful bike ride. The weather didn't co-operate necessarily but that's OK. As we know, the disease also doesn't co-operate."

Post-race, cyclists retired to sumptuous suites for some well-earned R&R before heading back to the majestic lobby for a casual-chic VIP cocktail, marked by the presence of MUHC Foundation president Don Taddeo; board beauty Anna Burgos; Sarah Cooke Fund founder Lorena Cook; Ken Villazor (advisor to Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators); and of course, Cedars top brass...

While mortal participants mixed and mingled, his cycleship took time out to autograph photos for each rider in his suite, before rejoining them for an intimate dinner in the famed Le Wine Bar.
Riders couldn't believe their good fortune, and relished every moment of the gathering.
But Lance's infinite inspiration did not stop there.
The following day, he joined Premier Jean Charest in Lachine to kick off the Cedars Cancer Institute Fuller Landau "Rain or Shine" Dragon Boat Race and Festival, masterfully chaired by Cedars CanSupport founder/chairperson Gwen Nacos and board member extraordinaire Bruce Shadeed. Hosted by CJAD AM wonder Andrew Carter and Rock
Détente's Chantal Lecroix, the fabulously fleuve fête (coordinated by Terry Diab) attracted 35 enthusiastic teams wholly committed to rowing for the cause.

Caught on the Jencam paddling heart and soul were high-profilers Sam Scalia; Fuller Landau's Michael Newton; and Amy and Peter Howick, all cheered by still more high-profilers including the TD Bank's Bruno Ciolfi; Gildan's Eric Lehman; Chamandys à la Shirley, Allan and Sandy; and Kate and Russell Groome of the Clarence Dillon Trust, who that special day, presented CanSupport with a $250,000 cheque, topping off the million dollar weekend of a Lance-time.
Noties In the Know: Lance's one-of-a-kind custom-built TREK Madone SL bike is now proudly owned by les Schlemms (who bid a lofty $30,000 for the privilege).