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Family duo goes to great lengths

Considerable distance has been put on the bikes in a family affair by Mike Hennessy and daughter-in-law Katie. - Katie Hennessy
Considerable distance has been put on the bikes in a family affair by Mike Hennessy and daughter-in-law Katie.
— image credit: Katie Hennessy

Mike Hennessy is some kind of cycling fool. But it’s all for a good cause.

This summer, the Shawnigan Lake resident raised more than $5,000 for cancer and MS, cycling in the Ride to Conquer Cancer in June and the Cowichan Valley Grape Escape in July.

He’s cycled the Grape Escape about 15 times, the Tour de Victoria last year and is cycling through Turkey and Iran in September.

“Some of the people raised megabucks,” he said of the rides, which he says raised $9.1 million and $450,000, respectively.

Daughter-in-law Katie Hennessy, who works at the B.C. Cancer Agency in Victoria, committed to the cancer ride first, then recruited her father-in-law.

“My only hesitation was I wondered, ‘How would I do another fundraiser and fundraise for both?’” the 65-year-old asked. Apparently easily.

The money raised for The Ride to Conquer Cancer benefits the B.C. Cancer Foundation and supports leading clinicians, scientists, and researchers.

Like many his age, he’s seen many family and friends diagnosed with the disease. His mom, who just turned 90, was diagnosed with lung cancer; an uncle succumbed to prostate cancer at 42 and another daughter-in-law, the mother of triplets, is a breast cancer survivor.

“There’s lots of cancer in my family,” Hennessy said. “Once you’ve had it, you never think you’ve really survived it...always wondering if the next illness is a recurrence,” he said.

Thinking of all his friends and family who’d been touched by the disease was the motivator he needed to leave Cloverdale in what he called the worst weather - windy, wet and cold.

“When we first left Cloverdale, I really wanted to go back to my brother’s for a cup of coffee,” Hennessy said. “I wondered if we’d be able to do it without getting hypothermia, or less serious, even grumpy.”

The first day for the 2,000 entrants was a 125-kilometre ride to Mount Vernon. Hennessy took a tumble then, after getting his tire caught on a bad highway shoulder.

“My helmet absolutely saved me,” he said. “I remember my head hitting the ground hard. I thought to myself that the helmet was a good investment.”

Shortly after that fall, Katie’s nursing skills came in handy, as a 69-year-old female cyclist ended up in the middle of the road, before being taken away in an ambulance.

“Katie was the first responder, she did an excellent job,” her father-in-law said. “I’m so proud of my daughter-in-law.”

Day two saw them cycling 115 kilometres to Redmond, just outside Seattle.

“We got soaked to the skin, all you can do is keep riding, by the end of it we were warm,” Hennessy said.

As most athletes know, the mind is as important, if not more important, than the body when doing a sport.

“You know, when we left Cloverdale, it was the first time I’d ever thought of going back, but we didn’t and I’m the better for it,” the cyclist said. “You don’t start something that important and not finish it.”

The 2015 ride will be held Aug. 29 to 30.

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