Gran Fondo exceeds all objectives

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The Saugeen Memorial Hospital Foundation’s second-annual Gran Fondo, presented by Bruce Power, surpassed all expectations.

Tracy Murray, the foundation’s executive director, told participants at Southampton’s flagpole Aug.18 that the planning committee had hoped for 850 riders to come aboard, instead the event filled up with 1,000 participants. Better yet for the foundation, the fundraising goal of $150,000, was exceeded, with $170,000 raised.

“It does take a whole crew to put this on,” said Murray, noting the Town of Saugeen Shores, Saugeen First Nation and MultiSport Canada pitched in, as did a variety of sponsors and a number of businesses.

“Our biggest thank you goes to all of our volunteers,” said Murray, noting they took on tasks ranging from ensuring the event’s four cycling routes were safe to providing snacks and refreshments, and cheers, along the way.

During the awards presentation, event organizers paid tribute to the top individual fundraisers with John Harding collecting the most at $6,440, and top fundraising teams, with Tour de Friends earning the mondo Gran Fondo trophy with a $17,121 fundraising total.


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One happy member of the top fundraising “Tour de Friends” team, Adam Polski, won top prize in both of the event draws – a bicycle, care of Martin’s Sports of Southampton, and a free Air Canada-sponsored flight to anywhere the airline flies in North America.

Tour de Friends co-captain Cathy Clarke said she took on the 70-km route and was impressed by both the route and the volunteers she met. Fellow team member Linda Kieswetter chose the 30-km route.

“The community spirit was amazing,” Kieswetter said , noting it was her first ride ever, so she took on the 30-km route. “It’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden, and I saw parts of the country I’ve never seen before.”

Nirvan Nuckenedee, of the SNC Lavalin team, an event silver sponsor, said while this was his second time as a participant, it was eight-year-old son Eishan’s first go at it.

Eishan took on the 30-k route without complaint even though he broke his leg in February during a skiing accident, noted his proud dad.

For his part, Eishan said while the ride was fun and tiring, he nonetheless did not need a nap.

Sarah John of Southampton chose the 70-km route.

“It was good. The last 15 kilometres were the hardest.” she said, adding she most enjoyed the inclusiveness of the event.

“It wasn’t a race,” she said. “It was open to everyone. There were grandparents out there. It was a good, friendly event.”

Marylou Hills of Southampton rode for the second time, but her sister, Jeanine LeRoy  of London, enjoyed her first ride.


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The siblings said they were impressed with how well organized the event was and how many volunteers were on hand.

“There was a lot of support from communities along the way,” said Hills, adding she was also impressed by the calibre of the event’s marshals.

LeRoy said she enjoyed the opportunity to support the foundation given she required the hospital’s services during a bicycle mishap of her own.

“We want to support the community when we’re up here,” she said.

Saugeen Shores Mayor Luke Charbonneau, who was among the guest speakers, gave kudos to the volunteers, participants, sponsors and members of the Foundation team.

“I am looking forward to seeing Gran Fondo 2020,” he said, noting Saugeen Shores was pleased to be part of an event that both supports the foundation and boosts the town’s profile as a beautiful place to visit as well as one that welcomes cyclists.

Mary Jo Arnett, hospital foundation board chair, gave thanks to all those who made it happen.

“We’re absolutely ecstatic,” she said, giving thanks to individual sponsors by name. “This sort of takes an army and takes a lot of sponsors.”

Mike Rencheck, president and chief executive officer at Bruce Power, was on hand to help present awards and to congratulate organizers and volunteers.

“We are so proud to be part of this community,” he said, adding praise for Bruce Power employees who came out to support the cause.

The fundraiser will help the foundation purchase a portable ultrasound for the emergency department, a patient wander system for safety, and two new beds.

John Harding, who raised $6,440,earned the top individual fundraising prize in the Gran Fondo Aug. 18 in Southampton. Cheryl Heath/Postmedia News
Gran Fondo participants had the chance to enjoy a hearty meal and a complimentary brew care of Cowbell Brewery of Blyth. Cheryl Heath/For Postmedia News

Sisters Mary Lou Hills of Southampton and Jeanine LeRoy of London enjoyed the 30-km route in this year’s Gran Fondo (Big Bike) fundraiser that had a record number of riders and raised a record $155,000. Cheryl Heath/Postmedia Network

SNC Lavalin team members Nirvan Nuckenedee, Arjun Basu, Deevesh Ramahelanon and Eishan Nuckenedee, 8, all took part in the Gran Fondo Aug. 18. Cheryl Heath/For Postmedia News