‘Big Bike’ gearing up for ride here

It could be the biggest “fun”-draiser the town has ever seen, with the emphasis definitely on fun.
That is how Keith Milne, “Big Bike” co-ordinator for Northwestern Ontario, described the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s fundraiser that’s rolling into town for the first time June 22.
And Milne didn’t think they’d have any problems keeping the 30-seat bike occupied from 12:30-5:30 p.m. that day–and perhaps later depending on the turnout.
“Not really because it’s something that attracts a lot of people,” he said, noting people had fun and took part in the festivities while raising money for stroke research.
In fact, the response has been so good here that the local Heart and Stroke Foundation upped its fundraising goal to $7,500 from $4,000, which will go to the provincial organization for stroke research.
“But the results of research go everywhere,” Milne stressed.
So far, six “teams” have come forward, including municipal officials, the Royal Bank, La Verendrye hospital, the Fort Frances Times, Canadian Tire, and Abitibi-Consolidated.
But local organizer Faye Flatt is looking for more 29-member teams (one seat is reserved for the driver), as well as volunteers to help out that day.
“Anyone over 14 can participate,” she said, with the Heart and Stroke Foundation asking each participant collect $50 in pledges for the ride.
Participants can earn hats, T-shirts, windbreakers, sweatshirts, gym bags, and portable radios depending on the number of pledges they collect.
Flatt first heard about the “Big Bike” during a trip to Thunder Bay last year. She went to cheer on a friend who was riding it and ended up taking an empty seat herself.
“We had such great fun,” she enthused, noting she wanted to do it again this year.
The tentative three km route will start at the Safeway parking lot, goes down Scott Street to Central Avenue, then right on to Second Street East as far as the arena, and back up Scott Street to Safeway.
And even though the bike weighs a tonne (literally), Milne assured it isn’t hard to pedal, especially if they stick to right-hand turns.
“If you have a full team, it’s not,” he noted, though admitting it could be a challenge if there were a lot of empty seats.
The “Big Bike” was in town about five years ago but that was for a different fundraiser. Milne said the Heart and Stroke Foundation now uses it exclusively across the country.
“We have two bikes in Ontario and so they travel all over the province,” he noted, with the bike taking a week to tour Northwestern Ontario.
British Colombia also has two bikes, with each other province having one.
“Provincially, they raised $1.2 million last year and they want to exceed that,” Flatt said.
Anyone interested in helping out can call Flatt at 274-6053 (days) or 486-3540 (evenings and weekends).