Cyclist rides to support son-in-law, friend fighting cancer

Mike Penner will hit the road Sunday for a physical trial he knows is nothing compared to what his son-in-law is enduring.

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Mike Penner will hit the road Sunday for a physical trial he knows is nothing compared to what his son-in-law is enduring.

The 70-year-old cyclist from Chatham will cover 60 kilometres during the annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer.

While he’s travelling from Ridgetown to Iona Station, his son-in-law, Luis Miguel Aguirre, will be in hospital for chemotherapy four years after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Part of the reason that I’m doing the ride is to help raise awareness that he needs a stem-cell (transplant), as do hundreds of other people around the province,” Penner said. “Blood.ca (Canadian Blood Services) has all of the stuff that they need to register to donate or at least test to see if they’re a match.”

Penner is also cycling for his friend Dave Welton, a former colleague from Queen Elizabeth II public school who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two months ago.

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He’s already raised almost $1,500 in donations.  Proceeds go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto to help with research and developing treatments.

Penner will be joined for the first 10 kilometres by his 11-year-old granddaughter, Bela.

“I like to bike,” he said. “I’ve been riding a lot. I’ve done a couple of 40 Ks to get ready for this one. I’m not too worried about being able to finish it. … I’ve got a couple of roads around here that stretch me out a bit, so I think I’m ready.”

The ride is usually held in Toronto and requires an entry fee of at least $2,500 in donations. Because of COVID-19, participants can stay home this year and do a virtual ride.

“In the last two weeks, they’ve had a tremendous surge in riders. “… It makes me feel good that there’s that kind of response,” Penner said.

He hopes the ride is held virtually next year, too, so that he can participate again.

“Go ahead and have your real ride in Toronto, but open it up to the rest of us that are a little more removed from the big city and we’ll do what we can,” he said.

Storms are forecast in Chatham-Kent for Saturday, when the event is scheduled, so Penner received permission to go Sunday.

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