Ever since Sergeant Steve Hicks started using his love of cycling to raise funds for Sick Kids and medical institutions for kids across North America, he has wanted long-time friend Constable Michael Cassidy to join him on the gruelling ride.
For the last seven years, Hicks and 31 Division uniformed officers, along with civilians, have ridden in the Cops Cycle for Kids fundraiser.
Cassidy, who joined the Service 31 years ago, finally ran out of excuses not to pedal with his friend.
Constable Andy McDonald, who joined the Service a decade ago as a court officer before becoming a uniformed officer and being assigned to 31 Division, passed away at age 33 on March 14 after a battle with cancer.
“I finally found a reason to ride with the group,” said Cassidy, who has been at 31 Division for the last decade. “Andy was a young guy and I am friends of his family. Even though this ride is for Sick Kids, I dedicated my effort to Andy, along with the kids. This is a great cause and the ride is a great team builder.”
In the last six years, the riders pedalled from to Toronto to their American destinations and back.
This year was different as they cycled, one-way, back from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
They covered the 850-kilomtre ride in five-and-a-half days.
“Sick Kids really stands out for us and we wanted to really make a big splash on our arrival back here,” said Hicks. “It’s great to see so many hospital staff, fellow officers and families here to greet us.”
Hicks’ 14-year-old son, Aiden Hicks, and his friend – Travis Hanson – rode with the group for the first time.
“It was simply an amazing experience,” said Hicks, who is in Grade Eight. “My main reason for doing it was because of my friend who lost his brother last year.”
Tyler Hanson, 12, was found seriously injured at the bottom of a tree by his mother last September. He was rushed to Port Perry hospital where he later died.
Born in Newmarket, he spent more than 10 years of his young life living in Scugog and was a member of the Port Perry Predators Major Peewee “A” hockey squad.
“I miss my little brother and I wanted to do something really special for him,” said Hanson. “I know he will be proud of me.”
First-time rider Constable Sam Pathak, of the 31 Division Major Crime Unit, did the ride for little Adam and Joseph, two friends of his daughter, who have benefited from the care of Sick Kids Hospital.
“There was a lot of wind on our way back to Toronto, but I never, ever, thought about quitting,” he said. “The kids in hospital never give up, so why should I?”
Constable Dave Christian enjoyed the ride to Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia the last three years.
This year was special, as his seven-month-old son, Eli, was there to welcome him at the finish line at Sick Kids Hospital on University Ave. on May 20.
There was another reason for him to feel good about himself when he got back to Toronto.
“This is the first time I have completed the full journey,” he added. “It took a bit of a toll, but I am happy because it’s for a fantastic cause.”
Nearly $11,000 has been raised from this year’s ride and fundraising continues.
The funds will go to the hospital’s Paediatrics Advanced Care Team (PACT) program.
“It’s very hard to capture in words what this program means to us,” said Lisa Walker, a member of the community events team at the Sick Kids Foundation. “This is a special palliative care program that relies on donations. It’s one of the first of its kind in North America and it provides care, comfort, support and resources to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.
“It’s essential for children and families who are going through some of the most trying times of their lives. We are so filled with gratitude and so much love for Steve and the team and what they do for Sick Kids.”
A group of seven students from C.W Jefferys Collegiate Institute accompanied the riders on their final leg, from Exhibition Stadium to Sick Kids Hospital.
“At the school, we have bikes that were purchased through funding from Pro Action Cops & Kids,” said Nick Mills, a teacher at the west-end school. “We also do a lot with Steve and we go riding sometimes with the School Resource Officers.”
Hicks and his team of riders have raised approximately $250,000 for Sick Kids in the last seven years,
Next year, the group will cycle to and from New York City.