Students bike for cancer cure

First year students raise money to fund cancer research by cycling across Canada this summer

Last week they gave up their hair for Cuts for Cancer. Now Mike Maggrah, Erik Zufelt and Ryan Zufelt, all ArtSci ’07, will be cycling across Canada to raise money for cancer research.
Last week they gave up their hair for Cuts for Cancer. Now Mike Maggrah, Erik Zufelt and Ryan Zufelt, all ArtSci ’07, will be cycling across Canada to raise money for cancer research.

If the $22,000 raised during last week’s Cuts for Cancer is any indication, Queen’s students are ready to part with their hard-earned money to support cancer research.

Three first-year students plan to add thousands of dollars more after this summer’s “Tour for the Cure.”

Starting May 12, Mike Maggrah, Erik Zufelt and Ryan Zufelt, all ArtSci ’07, will be cycling across Canada in a fundraising and awareness campaign to benefit the Canadian Cancer Society.

Ryan and Erik Zufelt had tossed the idea around for months, more as a dream than a tangible goal, but over the winter they decided to pursue the idea. Maggrah, an avid mountain biker the boys met in their Gordon Hall residence this year, seemed like the perfect teammate.

“Ryan just came running into my room one day with this great idea,” Maggrah said.

Ryan Zufelt insists the situation wasn’t quite that chaotic.

“I came to talk to [Maggrah], telling him I had an appointment with the local Cancer Society to get confirmation for a trip,” he said. “I knew he would want in on it.”

Erik Zufelt said Maggrah had something other than cycling interests that would make him the perfect team member: some personal experiences with cancer.

“He’s had some experience with cancer, Ryan and I have had several instances of it in our family. Cancer is everywhere, everyone has these stories.”

He went on to say that doing something as physical as their trip will be a great way to fight the disease.

“It’s really a coming together of so many experiences with cancer. We deal with that, all the emotional stuff, and we’re doing this physical activity that’s very intense.”

Ryan Zufelt joked that since men are supposed to be tough and not emotional, the physical activity was the best option.

The students have had a huge amount of support since their project first began to take shape.

“Gail Stark and the rest of the people at the local Cancer Society branch have been fantastic,” Maggrah said. “We got their support and endorsement right away.”

The Queen’s community has pitched in as well, providing both individual pledges and larger group donations. ASUS gave money to the initiative right from the beginning. Friends have helped with writing and designing promotional material.

The other members of the trio’s floor, Gordon 2, have also been willing to pitch in.

“I was talking to the floor representative last week, and she had a great idea,” Erik Zufelt said. “She said she had talked to the rest of the floor, and they are going to allot all leftover floor funds to the cause.”

Local businesses and private citizens have also been generous. So far, the group has raised almost $7,000. The goal for the entire trip is to raise $25,000. With a month and a half before the trip, this still seems feasible. Fundraisers in Maggrah’s hometown of North Battleford, Sask. and the Zufelt brothers’ native Barrie, Ont. are sure to bring in more cash, as will their stops along the way, they said.

And don’t think these students are going to be pampered on their way from Victoria to Halifax. When asked what support group would be travelling with them, all three men laughed.

“I think my Mom might drive with us for a day or two when we get to Saskatchewan,” Maggrah said. “Other than that, it’s just the three of us.”

“We’ll just be riding, with bungee cords tying our sleeping bags [to our bikes], and minimal clothing,” Ryan Zufelt added.

The trip is scheduled to take about 72 days, but all three stressed that the number is very approximate. The team plans to ride 150 kilometres each day, spending between five to eight hours a day on the trail. Time must be set aside for setting up camp, as well as for doing interviews with the local media. Based on conversations with other trans-Canada cyclists and some preliminary phone calls, local radio—and some television stations—have been highly receptive.

“So much of this is about awareness,” Erik Zufelt said, as his friends nodded. “It’s three guys persevering to get the message out there.” It’s not difficult to see the metaphor in that.

“It should inspire people with cancer to persevere, and it should inspire others to get involved,” Erik Zufelt said of their goals.

His brother agreed. “The idea is to get people thinking about seriously donating,” Ryan Zufelt said. “Not just 20 bucks to shut up the guy going door-to-door, but to look at what we’ve done and think about what they can do ... we want other people to take the initiative, just like we have.”

Many parents of first-year students might be taken aback by the announcement that their children will spend their vacation cycling across the country. But Maggrah and the Zufelts found their parents were supportive.

“My parents didn’t like my Cuts for Cancer mohawk look,” Erik Zufelt said when asked about his parents’ reaction to the stunt.

Maggrah said his parents took the news well. “I think they understand why,” he said. “I mean, how many other opportunities will I have to do something like this?”

Finding the money for another year’s tuition is another problem posed by the long trip. “I still don’t know how I’m going to afford it,” Maggrah said.

Despite some of the challenges the three men will face, they remain excited about their trip. Living a healthy lifestyle is an effective tool in cancer prevention, another part of the tour’s awareness campaign.

“We’ll just see where this goes [from here],” Erik Zufelt said.

“The message is simple: we’re three semi-regular guys, and doing this trip won’t be easy,” Maggrah said. “If people can take something away from that, we’ve done what we wanted to do.”

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