VANCOUVER, BC - They did it! First year university students, Willy Konantz and Taylor Scholz have completed their month-long bike ride from eastern Canada to BC's western shore, covered more than 4,500 kms and raised more than $250,000 for prostate cancer care and research. Importantly they have also lifted the hopes of men suffering from this debilitating disease. Cycling clubs and police escorts joined the final leg from Abbotsford to West Vancouver where politicians and supporters cheered them to the finish.
Inspired by Willy's 50 year old father Don's diagnosis at age 48 with advanced prostate cancer, the duo created Gear West: Our Ride For Men, a mission seeing them ride an average of 160 kms per day, six days a week. The journey from their university town of London, ON to their Vancouver home is - not how most university students are getting home at this time of year.
"When my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer, there was nothing that I could really do," says Willy, 19. "I'm not a doctor, and he always told me to be up to something big. So when Taylor and I thought of this, it was the best thing because I could actually do something, make a difference with something I believe and raise his spirits, so it means a lot to me. . . He says he's very, very proud." Can't beat that for a father's day tribute.
1 in 6 Canadian men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and of those 1 in 6 will die from the disease. Most men do not know the steps to early detection and many don't visit the doctor regularly. These students aren't waiting for 1 in 6.
"We were inspired by my Dad's strength and determination, and also other Canadian fundraisers, like Terry Fox, Rick Hansen, and my friend Dr. Riley Senft, whose journeys have made a noticeable impact to improve longevity and quality of life for Canadians struggling with health issues," Konantz says. "We want to do our part to raise the level of awareness of risk factors of prostate cancer and help ensure that those diagnosed with this disease can have the best possible outcomes because of advanced research."
Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men (behind skin cancer). With the peak incidence age of prostate cancer in men being 69, the baby boom wave is now setting the stage for a massive increase in the incidence of this disease in Canada. Early diagnosis is key, more research is essential. This year 25,500 Canadian men will be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, not including cases that go undiagnosed due to men's unwillingness to go for annual check-ups. Frequently it is without symptoms in its earliest, most curable stage – making annual testing essential.
As of today, the boys have raised $252,055, surpassing their goal of $150,000. These funds will flow directly to prostate cancer research and programs at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, which is a world renowned research, treatment, and education facility that benefits all Canadians.