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This article was published 1/9/2015 (663 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Ed Johner is a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, but is being honoured as one of five Our Manitoba Heroes at a gala on Sept. 26.
The Headingley resident is one of the main organizers of Winnipeg’s annual Motorcycle Ride for Dad. The event sees motorcyclists raising money that goes directly to fund cancer research and education done within the city.
"All the registration and pledge money go directly to the cause," Johner said.
The 57-year-old is a cancer survivor, so the Ride for Dad is an event dear to his heart. Shortly after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, Johner heard about the Ride for Dad from a neighbour. The event is held by motorcyclists in cities across Canada.
Just as Johner was accepting his initial diagnosis and planning treatment, he learned that he also had kidney cancer. He opted for surgery for both cancers, and has been cancer-free since.
Johner said he counts himself lucky, and knows that many other men aren’t as fortunate.
He was eager to help organize the first local Motorcycle Ride for Dad in 2009. The approximately 480 riders raised about $68,000. This year, the 1,250 participants brought in over $280,000.
"We reached the $1-million mark in fundraising now," Johner said. "When we started, we never dreamed it would be this big."
Each rider pays a registration fee and also gets pledges. Johner said one rider raised about $20,000 and another $10,000. "It used to be if you brought in $2,000 you were one of the top fundraisers, but now you wouldn’t even be in the top 10."
For the past few years, the money has gone to fund work by cancer researcher Dr. Sabine Mai at the Health Sciences Centre.
The annual Winnipeg ride, now the second largest in Canada, takes place on the last Saturday in May. It has become a special event for the motorcyclists in the ride and many spectators who line the route west along Portage Avenue from the starting point at Polo Park to Assiniboia Downs.
Johner said he always watches for a man with a sign saying thank-you to the riders.
The riders drive to Gimli for lunch, stopping in Selkirk on the way up and Lockport on the way back. They end their ride at the Canad Inns Windsor Park.
As well as raising money, Johner said the ride serves to increase awareness of cancer, especially prostate cancer, among men. He hopes it encourages some to go for an exam.
"I really believe that we’ve made a difference in getting people to talk about prostate cancer," he said.
Johner said he’s humbled by being selected to receive one of this year’s Our Manitoba Heroes awards, and is quick to credit ride committee co-chairs Moe Sabourin and Kurt Van Alstyne for their hard work over the years as well as the rest of the committee members and hundreds of volunteers.
He’s hoping that the ride continues to attract local motorcyclists who are willing to head out on the highway for a good cause.