Heart and Stroke Big Bike comes to Prince Albert

Jodi Schellenberg
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It may have been a surprise to many shoppers to see a huge, red bike with 30 people driving through Cornerstone.

Members from three Prince Albert organizations -- Co-op, Rona and the RCMP -- all took a turn around the block on the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike to raise awareness and funds for the organization on Thursday afternoon.

“Doing the big bike is important because all the money we raise goes to save lives,” said Pamela Hujber, manager for Big Bike Saskatchewan. “That is what we are all about is making death wait and creating survivors.”

The money raised by the teams riding goes to support research, put AEDs in Saskatchewan communities and provide education to both the young and the old.

“It is pretty hard to miss a 30-foot bike with 30 people rolling down the street,” Hujber said. “It is noisy, not only from the stereo but from the riders and we give them water guns so nobody can miss them. It attracts a lot of attention.”

The riders raise money up to three months before the ride, through personal efforts, such as asking family members or going door-to-door, or through team fundraisers, such as the barbecue Co-op was holding on Thursday.

The Co-op team had a goal of $3,000 but had already surpassed that amount before their barbecue. Team captain Emily De Sousa said they had $5,600 and were hoping to improve that number with funds from the Thursday event.

She was really excited to get a team together for the Co-op, to help bring awareness to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“I love making a difference in the world and being involved in charities,” she said.

Both De Sousa and Hujber acknowledged that heart disease and stroke has an impact on everyone.

“Who hasn’t experienced someone who has gone through a stroke or a heart attack or heart disease? We have all been touched by it,” De Sousa said. “I’ve probably been touched by it many times and not even realized it through my family members.”

One of De Sousa’s team members, Denise Bilawchuk, said the disease recently affected her.

“My dad was ill for quite a while and it had nothing to do with a heart condition as far as we knew,” Bilawchuk said. “However, this past February, he was having a home care visit with his nurse and he had a massive heart attack and he died.”

When De Sousa announced she was creating a Co-op team to ride the Big Bike, Bilawchuk jumped at the chance.

“I was in there like a dirty shirt,” she said. “It just seemed like the thing to do in memory of my father. Here I am all done up like nobody has ever seen me before and raising funds.”

Not only did her father die of a heart attack, Bilawchuk said also a great uncle and his son on her mother’s side also died from having a heart attack.

“For me it is just a way to kick in and give back and have some fun with the family here,” she said.

De Sousa said another member of her team, who came in from the Wakaw Co-op, had both parents recently suffer from a heart attack or stroke.

“She was really affected by it and wanted to help make a change in people’s lives,” De Sousa said, adding that the woman raised $1,094 on her own.

Riding on the bike was a great way for the members to share stories, but also just have fun and get to know one another better.

“We had a blast,” Bilawchuk said. “There was some huffing and puffing going on, myself included but we had a riot.”

She said riding on the bike gave her a chance to meet or reconnect with other employees.

After the ride in Prince Albert, the bike will be moving on to another community. Hujber said there are 93 teams in 56 communities across the province.

She hopes the Big Bike campaign will help the Heart and Stroke Foundation reach their aggressive goal of reducing the impact of heart disease and stroke by 20 per cent by 2020.

“Heart disease and stroke unfortunately affects almost every one we know,” Hujber said. “When you reach out, you are reaching out to someone you love.”

Organizations: Big Bike Saskatchewan, Prince Albert, Heart and Stroke Foundation Rona RCMP Wakaw Co

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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