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Big ride for a good cause

Local resident, 68, raising money for SickKids as he cycles to Alberta.

THUNDER BAY – Joseph “Martial” Arbour wasn’t fazed Friday as he prepared to launch a roughly 4,000-kilometre charity bike ride that will take him to Edmonton and back on a journey with deep personal meaning.

The 68-year-old Thunder Bay resident hopes to raise thousands to combat childhood cancer along the way through the Great Cycle Challenge, which benefits SickKids hospital.

Hauling about 70 pounds on his bike and trailer, it will be an epic journey, but Arbour was feeling confident before setting off Friday morning from NorWest Community Health Centres on Simpson Street.

“There’ll be some challenges along the way – hills, rain, thunderstorms probably,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to bother me too much. I’ll have to fight with the black flies, but I’ve got spray for that.”

He’s got a lot to ride for: Arbour was inspired to undertake the SickKids challenge by his late partner, Bertha Robert, who passed away from breast cancer at age 50.

“I’d hate to see kids go through what she went through – it’s rough,” he said. “Raising this money is going to help these kids.”

Starting his journey at the NorWest CHC had special meaning, Arbour said.

Raised in foster care, he got help finding siblings and other family from a community health worker at the organization.

He’ll visit several of them along his ride in Winnipeg and Edmonton before cycling back home, a round-trip journey he expected to take a little over four weeks.

Arbour is also a long-time Norwest CHC volunteer, making bannock and other food that’s shared with clients.

A small crowd of staff and community members saw him off Friday, cheering as he pedalled into the distance.

Arbour set a $5,000 fundraising goal, but hopes to exceed it by the time he returns. His total was approaching $1,000 as he departed.

More details and information on how to donate can be found online.

The Great Cycle Challenge has raised more than $21 million for childhood cancer care and research since it launched five years ago.