WAY TO GO SKP PACERS!!!
OMG! What a great weekend for the SKP Pacers!
Yes, the 25th anniversary of the MS Bike Ride from Grand Bend to London and back to Grand Bend the next day occurred this past weekend on the 25th and 26th of July 2015. AND for the fourth consecutive year, the EPR SKP Pacers Team participated. AND the Team hit many milestones along the way (Skip to the bottom paragraph if you are curious about how much was raised).
First of all, the Team actually consists of riders from both EPR Sleegers Kirkwood-Pearce and from EPR Haagsma Devries with financial contributions from other area EPR firms as well, so it is somewhat of a Southwestern Ontario undertaking and we certainly welcome any other firms local or distant to participate as well.
The Team this year DOUBLED in size to 18 riders. There were the usual suspects: Sandy Kirkwood-Pearce Keith Pearce, and Liz Neal from the Sleegers Kirkwood-Pearce Office in London, Joanne and Ken Haagsma, from the Dorchester office, and returning friends, Angela Sleegers and Al Neal. In addition we had two clients join us. The flying Dutch family known as John and Sharon extended its presence from one rider the last two years to four this year. This family includes extremely fast riders Amanda and Laurie who were out for personal bests and in that group we had our youngest rider ever Austin at 14. He was recognized both for his riding skill but also as a young person who was getting involved in giving back to the community. Another client, Lyndsey, joined us and gave the flying Dutch folks a run for their money as she used some of her velodrome form to finish very quickly.
Liz and Al Neal’s daughter, Erin, came from Toronto to ride this year. She is quite an athlete, especially as a swimmer, and although she had biked before, this was her first time riding as far as the 87 kilometers of the first day not to mention the 70 kilometer return trip the next day. Erin was amazing, finishing both days just behind the first riders … on a borrowed bike she had never seen before the previous night … without many of the comfort articles like cycling gloves that we take for granted. She plans to start tri-athlete training soon and she definitely has the swimming and riding down.
Another five riders, friends of Liz and Al, also brought some firsts. Dave was our oldest rider to date at 74 although you would never know it as he was a strong and consistent rider both days. We recognized him both for his commitment to the cause of ending MS but also making it clear that you can participate and contribute at any age. He brought along his brother, Stewart, who is from the Vancouver area and his wife Louise. They are the first members of the team from outside of the province of Ontario. Both were truly delightful people (as are all of the Team members) with humor and spirit throughout as well as very good riders finishing strongly, again on borrowed bikes that they had only seen the night before. And there was Rick, their brother-in-law, who had ridden with us in a previous year but swore never to do it again … well … he’s back and of course riding well and enjoying the company and comradery along the way.
The final rider, Luke (also a friend of Al and Liz), has the closest connection with MS as his sister suffers from the disease. This is Luke’s second ride with the team and he has vowed to return next year and hopes that he can bring his sister along. As Luke says, she has good days and bad days but is a real trooper. She is always an inspiration to us but it would be even more so if she can make the effort to ride the course. I doubt anyone will complain about a sore butt if she can join the team for even part of the trip.
As for the ride, this was probably the hottest weekend of the summer here in Southwestern Ontario, with temperatures well into the 30’s and humidex much, much higher than that, so staying hydrated was a real necessity. But there was no rain on the ride and everything went off without a hitch.
On the final day, everyone who participated as well as other family and friends came together at Sandy and Keith Pearce’s condo in Grand Bend for some food, some beverages, lots of story telling, fellowship, good cheer, (and unwarranted bragging), but most of all to celebrate the Team’s record mashing donation to the fight to end MS at over $10,000; double what we have contributed in any previous year. In the four years SKP Pacers have ridden, we have contributed over $24,000 to the cause and that is what we really celebrate. In addition, we recognized Stewart as being the highest individual fundraiser with almost $1,200 and in the process entwined ourselves into the Rush family conspiracy to sneak an ugly tie back and forth between Dave and Stewart Rush, a tradition that has been going on for over thirty years now. Stewart assures us that he will not have to take this tie back to BC. We will stay tuned for the conclusion to that epic tale.
At the end of the day, although we all start out dreading the ride, we all end up enjoying the experience and for the most part, promise to return for next year’s edition.
Last but definitely not least, the entire SKP Pacers Team needs to extend a huge thank you to Liz Neal, our Team Captain and leader, for her tireless work to get this off the ground, keep all of the stray cats in line, while maintaining throughout the best of good humor and spirit. Liz is an inspiration to us all, as is Al, her husband, who always finishes last but never fails to finish and that is the definition of spirit and “true grit”.