At the beginning of June, it seemed like a tall order. Could a grassroots group, a local not-for-profit and a community agency pull off a bike-a-thon and community celebration in less than six weeks? The answer is a resounding yes. The inaugural Tour de Thorncliffe wrapped up a two-week cycling fundraiser with plenty to celebrate on July 25th.
The event was conceived by Shakhlo Sharipova of the Thorncliffe Park Autism Network (TPASN) and Najia Zewari of the Women’s Cycling Network to celebrate the safety upgrades to the Thorncliffe Park bike lanes and raise funds for summer camps for local kids with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and organized in partnership with Gateway Bike Hub.
“We had a great success, with more than 50 participants registered to ride, including eight teams, and the majority of participants from Thorncliffe Park. Together we cycled just over 1,900 km, mainly using the Thorncliffe Park bike lanes, giving people a chance to experience the new protections,” says Najia. One rider, Ghotai Shirzad, who has a child who will benefit from TPASN summer programming, cycled 150 laps around Thorncliffe Park Drive for a total of 412 km and was recognized as the Tour’s outstanding participant. Several Leasiders rode for Cycle Don Valley Midtown’s team, which was the top team for fundraising.
Between the dollars raised and in-kind donations of camp supplies, TPASN was able open the camp on August 9th with 32 children registered, providing much-needed programming through to September 1st. Shakhlo, who runs the camp, shares her enthusiasm for what was achieved. “Our first bike-a-thon was a huge step for us and we are proud to have done it so successfully, and grateful to our all our donors, participants and supporters who helped us along the way.”
Capping off the organizers’ success was a celebration day for the community that featured a victory-lap around Thorncliffe Park Drive led by police officers from 55 Division and marshals from Gateway Bike Hub. Wrap-up festivities took place in the parking lot between East York Town Centre and Fraser Mustard Early Learning Centre, with organizations from inside and outside the neigbourhood on hand, including Gateway Bike Hub for bike repairs, Cycle Toronto for safety checks, SewTO to show off their wares, TPASN demonstrating camp activities, The Biking Lawyer for cycling and the law, and The Bike Brigade for food share deliveries. Every participant left with a gift bag filled with donations from participating organizations and community members, including bike lights and Tour de Thorncliffe branded hand sanitizer and lip balms. And no celebration would be complete without refreshments, generously provided by community members and Toronto Hifz Academy.
Don Valley West MP Rob Oliphant’s remarks to attendees on the day captured perfectly what the Tour de Thorncliffe was all about: sharing our resources to support the families of kids with autism; sharing space on our roads fairly and safely so everyone can get around; and sharing as a community in a well-earned celebration.