KANKAKEE – COVID-19 has upended many aspects of everyday life in 2020 — including annual fundraising events — but the show did go on for one this year.
In response, a small group of Kankakee residents put on their helmets, laced up their tennis shoes, and hit the streets on their bikes this fall for a good cause.
At least four local residents took part in this year’s Great Cycle Challenge, which rounds the bend to the finish line at the end of October and is in the midst of celebrating a 5-year anniversary.
In years past, the Great Cycle Challenge was held in June, but this year was postponed to a two-month period that began in September due to logistical complications linked to the coronavirus early this summer. Serendipitously, the calendar change meant this year’s challenge kicked off alongside Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
This was the first year Kankakee resident Elisabeth Dunbar took part in the Great Cycle Challenge. She said she was inspired by the camaraderie and determination others have given to the cause.
“If I’m going to ride my bike, let me do it for something that’s going to benefit a great cause,” Dunbar said of the philosophy that inspired her to take part in the challenge. “I really just started riding this year. This kind of helped give me the motivation to help me do something good.”
As is the case with all participants, Dunbar was able to set her own fundraising and mileage goals. She met her benchmark of logging 150 miles before the cooler fall temperatures began setting in.
Dunbar said she was inspired to take part in the Great Cycle Challenge after hearing about it from other participants, including fellow Kankakee resident Kerri Saikin.
This is the second year, Saikin got on her bike and peddled away for a cause that has impacted her family in the past.
In her inaugural 2019 ride, Saikin set a goal of riding 100 miles and bypassed it at the end of June with 136 miles logged. This year, she upped the ante a bit and rode 161 miles, up from the initial 150-mile goal she set.
“It’s important for me because I want to help raise awareness for kids cancer and raise money for it,” said Saikin, who has taken part in a number of other fundraisers in the past, including the Fight for Air Climb.
In the case of the Great Cycle Challenge, Saikin said there are a number of reasons the fundraiser appealed to her, including the ease in registering. The process can be accomplished online, and there is no cost involved.
“It’s great that you can decide how many miles you want to reach,” Saikin said.
While the cause behind the Great Cycle Challenge does not impact Dunbar directly, she said she looked beyond herself as she thought about the importance of taking part in the fundraiser.
“There’s no one close to me that’s been affected by childhood cancer,” Dunbar said. “By the grace of God, I really don’t have a lot of friends or family that have been affected by cancer, in general. But I’m a mom, and I can’t even imagine hearing that your child has cancer. It must be so hard hearing those words.”
According to the Great Cycle Challenge’s website, riders across all 50 American states have ridden a collective 18.8 million miles since the fundraiser kicked off in the summer of 2015.
Since that inaugural year, more than $24.6 million has been reached, with the bulk of the proceeds reportedly going toward supporting research to develop better treatments to find a cure for childhood cancer.