By Don Procter
Surrey sales rep Chuck Magnus thought his days riding a bicycle ended when he was a kid with a paper route, but after watching girls, boys, women and men cross the finish line of a bicycle race from Vancouver to Whistler in 2011, he was inspired to take to the saddle again.
“I came home that next weekend with a bike, a jersey, shorts, shoes and socks and walked into my home and my family said, ‘Dad, what are you doing?’
“I knew then that I was going to do something for kids with cancer, I just didn’t know what,” says Magnus, 61, who raised $72,000 for cancer research after completing a cross-Canada run with 31 other cyclists in the 2017 Sears National Kids Cancer Ride last September.
Magnus was motivated by his daughter Kristen, who had been fighting a battle with cancer that she has since won.
A Realtor for 27 years, who specializes in foreclosures at Re/Max Little Oak Realty, Magnus and his fellow riders crossed nine provinces, five time zones and dipped their toes in two oceans in 18 days. The trip began in White Rock, B.C., and finished at Peggy’s Cove, N.S. last September. The crew cycled a fast pace of 30 km/h up to 200 km a day and spent some time daily in a vehicle shuttle “because you can’t get across Canada on a bike in 18 days.”
They commenced the ride when B.C.’s forest fires were national news. Detours were common through the province. “We’d ride up a road that looked foggy and we thought it was going to rain but actually it was just thick smoke from the forest fires.”
Ironically, it wasn’t the mountain roads Magnus found most arduous, but the open prairies where winds “drained so much out of each rider.” About 20 km west of Winnipeg, holding to a 30 km/h pace and battered by headwinds, Magus’s right leg gave out.
Advised by medical personnel to take a day off riding, Magnus says his Facebook post about the event resulted in some interesting responses. A Grade 9 school teacher in Port Alberni, B.C., posted that the Realtor was the subject of his upcoming class on leadership and worthy role models. “Go easy on yourself, you are such an inspiration to the world,” he told Magnus.
The cyclists ranged in age from about 30 to nearly 70 – the eldest being a woman who had won her own battle with cancer. On big hills when she was nearly exhausted, others would help with “a hand on her back” pushing her forward. “It was a team effort – there is nothing in this ride that was all about Chuck or Jill or any other individual,” says Magnus.
Each rider was equipped with a GPS downloaded with a daily route. The crew was followed by a medic and a motor home for emergencies. At night they slept in bunk beds in a semi-trailer transport that followed them. Each rider paid their own way.
Magnus says the cyclists received warm welcomes in cities and towns, big and small, thanks in part to social media. On Facebook he had close to 400 followers. At a stop at a suburban retail mall in Toronto, he was surprised by the size of the welcoming crowd. One woman requested a photo with him.
“I had never been to Toronto and yet people knew who I was.” In a high school in Moncton, he met student Becca Schofield, a teen with terminal brain cancer who had gained international recognition through her social media campaign suggesting that people spread acts of kindness.
Magnus has many fond memories of the trip and visits with young children like Becca rank as unforgettable. The ride included 10 stops at children’s hospitals – one in which a terminally ill boy with numerous head scars from surgical operations beamed when he met Magnus.
“You and I stub our toe and we hurt, we get a cold and we’re down. When you see these kids, you realize we really have nothing to complain about.”
Magnus trained for the big ride by cycling 3,400 km over the preceding nine months. Since 2011 when he first got back into riding, he completed the annual 230-km Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle five times, raising $50,000 to $60,000.
Magnus has received plenty of recognition for his achievements – and not just from his family and friends. The House of Commons of Canada called to congratulate him on completing the cross-Canada journey and CREA has nominated him for the Canadian Realtors Care Award 2018 – an honor for Realtors who do outstanding work in their communities. The nomination comes off another he garnered from Re/Max “in recognition of service above self.”
The awards “are humbling” and serve to “strengthen my passion to share from my heart,” says Magnus, adding he couldn’t have done the Canadian journey without all the people who supported his endeavour.
“I can say that my career in real estate last year was not the best year I have had but I can tell you it was my best year ever…just for the emotion and what we riders did for those children.”
Magnus says he will have another go at the cross-country ride in 2019. “I’m probably more scared about making that commitment because I know what it involves. I know it is going to hurt and there will be struggles but those pains and struggles are nothing compared to what a child suffers when they are fighting cancer. The doctors, the nurses…gave back so much to all the Kristens across Canada…It has been my turn to give back and I am going to continue giving back.”