Ride To Conquer Cancer

17 October 2012

The past 10 weeks have been a truly amazing experience and let me start by telling you why I was moved to get involved with The Sunsuper Ride To Conquer Cancer. I have been touched by 3 people close to me who have had cancer.

The past 10 weeks have been a truly amazing experience and let me start by telling you why I was moved to get involved with The Sunsuper Ride To Conquer Cancer. I have been touched by 3 people close to me who have had cancer.

Firstly, my wife Sohani ‘s uncle, a very well-known doctor in South Africa who tragically left behind 3 kids under 20. He fought for over 3 years and lost the battle last year.

Secondly, an employee of mine who started working at Bitton in April. One night she burst into tears while telling me about how her mother fought cancer 12 years ago and was in remission until she recently began the fight again.

The most recent person in my life to be challenged by cancer is a very good friend, Josino. We met 20 years ago while working in the kitchen at the Ritz Carlton in Sydney. We not only worked together, we partied together and drank tea together at his mum and dad’s place. As it happens in life, unfortunately we lost contact and thanks to the power of social media, we reconnected in April after 20 years.

Josino came to Bitton for a coffee one day and just plainly announced to me that he has pancreatic cancer. I immediately put myself in his shoes thinking of his wife and 2 children under 10 and I was lost for words. What could I say or do?

I remember clearly that I was in Italy when Josino sent me a link about The Sunsuper Ride To Conquer Cancer that he was participating in and I didn’t think twice about joining him for such a great cause. The first call I made when I landed back in Sydney was to Vaughan. He is the State Manger of Sola Sport which is the sole distributor of Bianchi Bikes in Australia.We talked about getting a team together and I contacted Laurent Curvat from Spotted Cow Cookies, David Bramley from Qantas, Sam McAndrew from Workforce and of course Vaughan McVilly who was also the Team Bitton Captain.

Within a week we had assembled the team and had beautiful bikes and riding gear ready to go for our first training session. My team mates have been cycling at various levels prior to this event but I haven’t been on a bike for 40 YEARS!!!

So you can only imagine our first training session at 6am when we step out of the Sola Sport showroom in our gear. We arrived at a set of traffic lights and I tried to click my shoes out of the pedals. The right foot, the left foot, the right foot again and then in slow motion… I tipped to the side and landed straight on the concrete. The taxi driver behind us thought I had a heart attack however my team mates were crying because they were laughing hysterically. I was so embarrassed but with a bleeding knee and my bruised pride I got back up and continued my first ride.

More seriously, we couldn’t have chosen a better charity to support. The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA. The new world class cancer treatment and research facility will open in 2013 and will provide care to patients and carers.

A centre of excellence, The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA will integrate clinical care, research and education creating opportunities for innovative discoveries, compassionate holistic care and better outcomes for patients.

The aim is to create Australia’s largest integrated Cancer Care Facility. Providing screen programs, diagnosis and treatments through to care and post treatment support.

On the 27th of September we held a cocktail fundraising party and auction at Bitton and I was very honoured to welcome Juliette O’Brien, Chris O’Brien’s daughter. Hearing Juliette’s personal story was inspirational. It made me realise that the people involved in these projects grow to become a source of support to each other, forming a tight knit community and life long friendships. I also had the pleasure of meeting Gail O’Brien at a function 2 weeks ago and I was touched to see how Gail is witnessing the vision of her late husband being continued on.

I was overwhelmed by the support shown by our sponsors and suppliers right down to the last detail. The event wouldn’t have been such a success without you.

Protein-One, Lahood and Son, CSVAV, EzyBidz Fundraising Solutions, Game Farm, French Flair Food and Wine, Michael Beaumont, Kleenmaid, Spotted Cow Cookies, Foodies, Bulldogs, My Prana Portal, Ti Mo, Estee Lauder, Gourmet Safari, Red Balloon, The Beauty Bar, OVViO, Grinders Coffee, Sola Sport, Sharks, Brasserie Bread, MG Pilates, Air Vanuatu, Craggy Range, Georgina Morrison, Lah Lah, Silencio, Isprint, Stephanie Kay, Impact Communications.

On arrival, guests were greeted at the door by Bitton staff and served sparkling wine and canapes.

Bids were made on the silent auction items throughout the evening and the live auction was run by a professional Auctioneer, Michael Beaumont.

A big thank you to my staff for donating their time.

The Team Bitton training sessions continued at 6am from Alexandria to La Perouse and back again 4 – 5 times per week. We were riding a total of 200km per week in preparation and the maximum in one session was 45km.

On Saturday the 13th of October at 6.45am we joined over 1,600 other riders as we began the 200km journey from Olympic Park to Camden. The event was impeccably organised and there was such a good vibe and sense of humour shared amongst the riders, organisers and volunteers. We stopped every 25km and were served cut oranges by volunteers to keep up our energy levels and hydration. It was physically challenging to ride 100km in a day for the first time.

When we arrived at the camp we stretched for 30 minutes, had a shower, enjoyed an early dinner with a live band and went to bed at 8.30pm.

At 6.45am on Sunday the 14th of October we were up and ready to complete the second half of the ride. The excitement and emotions built as we approached the finish line to cheering family, friends and supporters who were patiently waiting for our red jerseys to come into view.

2012 was the inaugural Ride in NSW and is the largest single fundraising event in Australian history raising a total of $5.7 million!

Team Bitton raised $47,215.20 and I’m proud to be one of the Silver Ambassadors for 2012. I personally raised $23,995.20 and was ranked 4th out of the 100 top individual fundraisers.

This has been an amazing ‘ride’ in more ways than one and has impacted on each person involved in a different sense. We have already registered our team for 2013 and expect that much larger goals can be achieved over the next 12 months in comparison to the short 10 weeks we had this year.