Jeff Rushton knows all about pushing himself. As part of a two-man team in 2004, he set a world record for crossing the continent during Race Across America in six and a half days. It wasn’t the first time the 48-year-old Rushton had ridden that far. Two years earlier he rode across the U.S. solo in 24 days and in 2003, across Canada. But more than personal ambition was driving him along. Rushton used the long rides to raise money for children he knew were suffering from cancer and to set the ground-work for what is now known as the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation.
Since those early days, the foundation has raised $14 million for children’s cancer charities, with $4.7 million of that given out in 2010. “All funds are raised through a series of primarily cycling-related, active lifestyle events,” Rushton said. “I remain a passionate volunteer and love the impact we are beginning to see as a result of our fundraising.”
The Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation now embraces a variety of events, including two-hour Inside Ride spin-a-thons held inside schools and corporations year-round and the Tour for Kids events held in Ontario and Alberta. While the latter name suggests rides for youth, in fact the Tour for Kids are two-to-four-day cycling events with distances of up to 200 km per day. Rushton expects that fund-raiser to grow with other provinces embracing the idea.
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But the backbone of the foundation is its Sears National Kids Cancer Ride every September. The latter takes place over 15 days and includes 50 national riders, who travel relay-style across Canada, as well as local riders who pay a registration fee and raise money to ride distances up to 160 km. There are also local community events designed to publicize the entire effort. The ride is billed as the biggest charity cycling event in the world and encompasses 7,000 km, going from Canada’s west coast to the east.
In 2011, the foundation hopes to raise more than $5 million. Rushton said many of the foundation’s events sell out because people believe in the cause and have fun while raising money. It doesn’t hurt that the foundation is very careful with the funds it raises, making sure 100 per cent of the money goes to the charities it supports. The foundation also provides funding for research, survivorship and support programs specific to children. Rushton is justifiably proud of what he calls a 360-degree approach.
Why pick the cause that he did? Rushton said the disease kills more Canadian children each year than any other and that currently over 10,000 families nationally live in its shadow. “I am passionate about making a difference in peoples’ lives,” he said. For more information on the foundation, visit www.coasttocoastagainstcancer.org