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Saturday , 8 May 2021
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Survivor sets big goal for supporting kid’s cancer at Canada’s Great Cycle Challenge

In an effort to reach his goal of raising $10,000 for kid’s cancer, Jarrod Russell began cycling in the snow to train for this year’s Great Cycle Challenge.

Throughout the month of August, he will be cycling 60 kilometers on County of Vermilion River roads, and a total of 1,200 kilometers on park paths in the region.

“I was riding in the snow – it felt good, the weather was alright, it was only -8. I just had to get out and get some fresh air,” said Russell after one of his first days out cycling.

A survivor of kid’s cancer himself, this will be his sixth year participating in the challenge. Since 2016, he has raised nearly $150,000.

“I am a child cancer survivor – I had a brain tumor when I was four years old. I was left with partial paralysis which causes mobility, cognition, and speech issues. I later developed epilepsy and suffered various subsequent injuries,” Russell said.

As a child he experienced bullying, loneliness, and ultimately a feeling of uselessness, but now in his 40’s this cycling challenge gives him great purpose.

To begin training he started out with 8–10 kilometre rides, but in August he will be riding 35-40 kilometres per day.

Russell said he is looking forward to summer, but he is working to keep his legs limber as they become pretty stiff in the winter.

This year he is riding for Braxton Weidman, an eight year old  with Glioblastoma which is a rare and aggressive type of brain cancer. Weidman (from Birmingham, Alabama) has had two brain surgeries so far to remove part of tumour, and Russell said he’s a fighter.

“It warmed my heart that he was going through the same thing. Sometimes the greatest inspirations come from the smallest people. Some kids want to be cowboys, others princesses, chefs, or farmers. Kids battling cancer wish for a cure so they can grow. It’s hard for children to be going through cancer, and I’m also reminded of all the hardships that my parents went through when I was in hospital. His parents are going through the same thing, having to quit their jobs and look after their son – it’s pretty tough,” said Russell.

Cancer, Russell said is the largest disease related cause of death for children in Canada.

He enjoys spreading positivity in the world and helping others realize they can fight through anything. He said he is thankful for the support he’s received from family and friends.

“What the community has done for me is absolutely unreal. It’s awesome that they’ve stepped in and helped me,” said Russell.

In his own experience over the years, therapies and medications both helped and posed challenges for Russell, but his family, horses and cycling have been a steady encouragement that helped give him something to look forward to.

Even thought he doesn’t ride horses, in the warmer months Russell helps feed, water and halter the horses at his sister’s ranch and said he is eager to get back at it this spring. The work benefits both his physical and mental health, by contributing nurturing and care-giving capabilities he gains both responsibility and companionship.

“It was great to see my horses, just being with them felt pretty good,” said Russell.

When he cycles in the county this summer to complete his massive goal, he will have a friend travel with him as a flag person to keep an eye on the traffic. Because his bike is specially designed, he is so low to the ground he doesn’t see much of the traffic. With the weakness on his right side, Russell needed something stabilized he could ride, and after buying a recumbent bicycle in 2013, he started the challenge three years later.

Since it’s inception, he’s become the top single fundraiser in the country.

As of April 14, he has raised $3,553 for this year’s campaign. To donate you can visit https://greatcyclechallenge.ca/Riders/JarrodQRussell.

About Angela Mouly

Angela comes to Lakeland Connect after leaving traditional newspaper where she spent the past four years reporting on community events. Her repertoire includes writing about history, politics, agriculture, sports, entertainment and art. She was the third place recipient of an AWNA General Excellence Award for “Best Front Page” during their 2016 Better Newspaper Competition. Angela has lived in rural Alberta all her life and in Vermilion for the past 15 years. She looks forward to continuing to serve and inform the Lakeland community by joining in people's many adventures and sharing their stories.