Ten-year-old Ava Caldwell rode her bike over 250 kilometres — and raised about $3,000 — to help a friend with cancer.
Caldwell is a past École Puntledge Park Elementary student. With the support of her family she rode her bike from Pemberton, B.C. to her old school in Courtenay. She arrived Monday, with her old class at Puntledge joining in for last leg of the journey from Royston.
“It went pretty good,” said Caldwell minutes after arriving at Puntledge. “It’s nice to see my friends again, and to know that I did this for my friend Ruby.”
Caldwell became friends with classmate Ruby Poirier in kindergarten at Puntledge school, and they have been friends ever since.
Poirier was diagnosed with leukemia when she was six years old, and after years of remission, she and her family were told late last year that the cancer had come back.
Caldwell and her family moved to Pemberton around the time that Poirier started going back to Vancouver for treatment. Caldwell has kept in touch with her friend, visiting her in hospital in Vancouver.
“I went to see Ruby in the hospital on her birthday,” Caldwell wrote on her blog over a week ago. “She is still in isolation so all of her presents and treats had to be washed before she could play with them.
“I had to wear a gown to make sure we didn’t bring in any germs so Ruby was protected, after her bone marrow transplant. It was a good visit!”
On Thursday, Caldwell left her home in Pemberton with her brother Alex, who rode the entire way alongside his sister. Ava’s parents Neil Caldwell and Kirsten Ellingson took turns, riding their bikes with the kids and driving the family’s vehicle, throughout the trip.
Ava noted some parts of the trip were fairly tiring, and though her family does plenty of mountain biking and hiking, but this trip was “the biggest bike I’ve done.”
She had some support along the way with fundraising stops at Nesters Market in Whistler and Squamish, according to Neil.
“And then in Squamish we had a whole bunch of other families and kids join us and some rode all the way to Horseshoe Bay,” Neil recalled, noting he and Ellingson organized some of the fundraisers,but Ava came up with the idea for the bike ride and organized much of the trip. “Ava kind of spearheaded the whole thing — she organized it, she made a blog for herself — so it’s been really good for her.”
Neil noted people from as far away as San Francisco have donated money for Poirier and her family via Ava’s blog at www.ridingforuby.blogspot.ca.
“It’s really incredible that kids can have such a powerful impact on families and each other and the community, and just they can do a lot,” said Neil. “They’re way more capable than we give them credit for a lot of times, so it’s pretty neat.”
Ava said she is considering doing another fundraiser because of a girl she met on her trip who told Ava about her two-year-old sister who has cancer.