It’s time to break out the bike pumps because Steppe Up for Ukraine is back in town.
After debuting the charity ride last year to great success, Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Christyna Prokipchuk is looking to double donations for Ukraine this month.
The month-long fundraiser will culminate in the cycling ride, taking place Saturday, July 22.
Prokipchuk, who’s from Ukraine herself, hopes she can raise $100,000 in humanitarian aid for the country but worries there isn’t as much interest in the war in Ukraine as there was last year.
“I do think it’s going to be harder this year because the war in Ukraine is not sexy for a lot of people anymore,” she told The Lake Report.
Still, she and fellow organizer Larry Duncan are optimistic they can get it done after passing last year’s $30,000 goal three times over, raising $90,000.
Prokipchuk said she wants to “keep the drum beating” in support of the many people who have been displaced, injured or killed because of Russia’s invasion.
“My father was born in Ukraine, all of my grandparents were born in Ukraine,” she said.
Prokipchuk wonders what might have happened to her family if they had stayed.
“If my parents didn’t make the decision to move here, I could be there right now,” she said.
If not for their decision to come to Canada, she thinks there’s a good chance her father and two brothers would have died at war.
“And that’s just a matter of where we’re born. We have zero control over where we’re born,” she said.
The war in Ukraine began when Russian troops invaded the country without provocation on Feb. 24, 2022.
The Government of Canada said on its website that Russia has “committed atrocities” against the Ukrainian people by targeting civilians.
Human Rights Watch describes the Russian bombings of Ukraine’s civilian areas as “indiscriminate and disproportionate.”
These facts were not missed by fellow organizers Duncan, also from NOTL, who said the bombings were “war crimes” and the larger war was “horrid.”
“We can’t stop the work,” he said. “We can do something to help,” he added.
Last year, Prokipchuk and her fellow organizers designed two routes for riders, one 20 kilometres and the other 120 kilometres.
This year, they’ve added a 60-kilometre route as well.
Riders will be starting at the same location as last year, St. Mary’s Catholic Ukrainian Church in Niagara Falls.
The church will be offering a free lunch to bikers at the end of the ride.
Duncan said everything raised by the ride will be donated to Help Us Help and to the Niagara chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
According to the charity’s website, it provides humanitarian assistance in the form of education and training for orphaned and displaced Ukrainian children. Prokipchuk said they’ve been doing work in Ukraine for over 30 years.
It also provides counselling to veterans and their families as they transition from active duty to civilian life.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress advocates for the interests of the Ukrainian people at a national level.
One of the reasons Prokipchuk and the other four members of Steppe Up Ukraine’s fundraising committee are able to keep costs low is that they rely on donations and volunteers.
For example, Prokipchuk said their campaign shirts were designed for free and water stations are sponsored by community groups.
Rosewood Winery will be sponsoring one such station at its estate in Beamsville, where the 120-kilometre route reaches its halfway point.
People interested in stepping up for Ukraine can donate at the campaign’s fundraising page, at justgiving.com/campaign/STEPPEUPforUkraine23.