Instead of jumping on a plane to return home for the summer following their final exams, two University of Western Ontario first-year business students decided to pedal their way back to the West Coast to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer. Inspired by his best friend Willy's father Don's diagnosis at age 48 with advanced prostate cancer, Taylor Scholz and Willy Konantz, both 19, created Gear West: Our Ride for Men.
Riley Senft, a friend of the boys, the previous year had ran across Canada as part of a fundraiser that raised more than half a million for prostate cancer research.
"Wouldn't it be cool if we did something like that?" said Taylor to his longtime friend. That was the beginnings of the ride that was a year in the making.
"When my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, there was nothing that I could really do," says Konantz. "I'm not a doctor, and he always told me to be up to something big. So when Taylor and I came up with the idea, it was the best thing because I could actually do something, make a difference and raise his spirits."
"Can't beat that for a Father's Day tribute." With little biking experience, the boys enlisted high school pals Mikhail Zalesky and Yongku Jung to travel with them for support. The foursome averaged 180 kilometres per day, six days a week. They hoped to raise $50,000. Met by more than 300 friends, families and cycling enthusiasts at the finish of their 4,600-km journey in June, the youngsters raised a remarkable $265,000 for the Vancouver Prostate Centre.
One in six Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and of those, one in six will die from the disease. This year 25,500 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Early detection is key.
Best part of the ride?
I almost started to cry when we crossed the Ontario boarder. That is one huge province.
We had a pretty rough morning in Banff, it was an early morning and very cold. We didn't make it far that day.
How many flat tires?
I couldn't give you a number. I don't even remember what I did last week.
I zoned out on the way to Banff outside of Calgary, and ate the pavement pretty hard. I picked my bike up and it looked like a Chinese jigsaw puzzle. We had to drive to a store and get it tuned up.
Most memorable moment?
I will never forget getting to the top of the hill on Hastings Street and seeing beautiful Vancouver in the sun. I started singing.
Place you never want to see again?
There are a lot of small towns in Canada that are perfect for a kidnapping. I don't want to go back to any of them.
City you most appreciated?
Probably Abbotsford. It was fantastic to see so many family and friends come out.
Most bike-friendly city?
When I had my big fall outside of Banff we drove to Canmore, Alberta to fix up my bike. The shop had heard of our ride and fixed my bike free of charge. Canmore was beautiful, like a small-scale Whistler, thousands of bikers.
One thing you missed while on the road?
My beautiful girlfriend Genevieve Favourite bike accessory?
The biking pants that were donated to us by Brenard Leroux were absolutely amazing.
What did people share with you the most?
Biggest misconception people have about prostate cancer?
Doesn't just happen to older men, younger guys can be hit by this disease.
Biggest life lesson?
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something.
What does success look like?
It doesn't look like your self; it looks like friends, family and other supporters.
What you hate most about the world?
People don't believe in themselves. I have talked to so many people that have said they couldn't have done what we did. Honestly, anyone could, all you need is a pair of legs and passion. Well, if you're Terry Fox all you need is passion.
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