When fundraising is tackled with passion and light competition, it becomes about more than simply raising money for a worthy cause – and Niagara’s Steven Cohen has been growing a community through Steve’s Cycle Paths for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer for more than 10 years.
Since 2007, Cohen, CEO of Salit Steel and team captain, has encouraged friends, family and strangers to join the cause and the team has raised more than $10 million for cancer research as a result.
“Do you have a bike, can you ride?” He’s always on the lookout and quick to conscript new riders.
While he is the driving force behind the team, he says the riders are the heart of the endeavour and he wouldn’t have raised so much without solid effort from everyone on the team.
And he hasn’t been shy convincing as many people as he can to take part.
“It’s just simple math,” Cohen says. “It’s a numbers game.”
The goal this year is to raise a combined $1 million, he says, which means he needs at least 400 riders raising the minimum $2,500 each. He’s confident that goal can be reached with 300 riders each raising more.
Right now, he says he has about 250 confirmed on the team.
“I think the interesting thing is there’s some big corporate national teams like RBC, and like Scotiabank. Right. Last year I think number two raised like $580,000,” he says.
“We raised almost $1.2 million, just a local group of ordinary people.”
This year’s two-day, 200-kilometre ride is June 13 and 14, and Cohen says the team is gearing up to start training. On weekends from about April through October he sets out with any interested teammates to ride from Lock Three on the Welland Canals Parkway toward Niagara-on-the-Lake, stopping at Balzac’s for a coffee and a break.
Recognizable in their pink jerseys, Cohen says they’ve been doing that practice ride for several years now.
“Usually about 40 kilometres, which is about an hour and a half. And in the end, we’re riding 100 kilometres, which is like four hours. Every week just a little farther.”
He says it ranges from four riders some weekends to 30 on others.
Speed isn’t the goal, he says, the team comes together over a common desire to raise money for the cause and to join the community.
“We are not setting lane speed records, but we’ve really gotten to meet some phenomenal people who you would never have met otherwise.”
Cohen’s fundraising efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. On March 5 during a kickoff celebration at Ravine Vineyard Estates Winery, Cohen was honoured with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers for his 13 years of tireless contributions to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto.
“Recognized by the Governor General of Canada, this prestigious award is given out to Canadians who have a passion, dedication and a commitment to community,” a statement from Salit Steel said.
Anyone looking to join Cohen’s team, or would like to make a donation to the cause, can do so through the team page on the Ride to Conquer Cancer website.