Remembering Mary through an Incredible Cycling Journey
By Cancer Foundation on September 3 / 2019
[Cancer Coaching, Caregivers, Events, Families]
It took Mark Lawrenson 39 days to travel more than 2,600 kilometres in a loop across Ontario, with just his bicycle and about 80 pounds of gear on his back.
But Mark insists he wasn’t alone – not only did he have hundreds of people following his journey on social media and meet countless kind strangers along the way, he also had someone special watching over him.
Mark was biking in memory of his wife Mary, and aiming to use his journey to raise funds for the many community services they had benefited from while Mary was facing cancer.
“There were many times on the road where I knew she was with me,” Mark says. “I would see these shadows of birds following me, but when I looked up I would never see them. I felt like that was Mary watching over me.”
Mark shared photos and videos of his journey on social media, showing his followers where he was traveling and encouraging them to make a donation in support of the five local charities he had chosen. He averaged about 450 kilometres of biking each week, heading south from Perth to cities like Kingston, Belleville, and Burlington, all the way down to Windsor, and then back north through Sarnia, Tobermory, and Sudbury. To finish his journey, Mark crossed through North Bay and Pembroke to get back to Perth. Upon his return, he had raised nearly $10,000 for local cancer care.
But his journey is far from over – Mark plans to leave Perth by bike again on September 24th, the anniversary of Mary’s passing. His destination this time? Florida.
Mark and Mary had spent several winters together in Florida, and bought a home there together last year. Mark had actually floated the idea of biking down to Mary a few years ago. “I told her that one day I wanted to ride my bike all the way to Florida. I said, ‘you can come along behind me in the car if you’d like!’”
He has also long dreamed of riding his bike across North America, a feat he will have almost completed by the time he reaches Florida. And while he won’t have as many friends and family members to stop in on this time, he says he’s looking forward to the people he’ll meet along the way.
“So many people were curious about what I was doing last time, and it was incredible to see how instantly they could connect to the cause,” Mark says. One particularly touching moment came when he told his story to the housekeeper at a motel he’d stayed the night at, and she gave him her entire day’s worth of tips as a donation.
“These are complete strangers, but they believe in the cause so much that they choose to trust me,” Mark says. “It’s amazing.”
He guesses that about $1,000 of the funds he raised on his Ontario journey were cash donations from generous passers-by. For others who were interested in following along with his story, he handed out cards with web links and wore a t-shirt with his website, remembermary.com, printed on both sides.
The funds Mark raises will go towards several local charities including the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, where he and Mary had used the Cancer Coaching services. He believes having the support of a Coach is incredibly important for families facing cancer, and wants to help fund local research projects as well.
Going forward, Mark hopes to make his ride an annual event, and would invite others to join him on the parts of the journey they’d like to complete.
But for now, he’s happy to continue riding alone to help with his own healing process. He says in the end, the journey is about Mary, what she went through, and the way it impacted their family.
“Of course, I would do absolutely anything if it meant I could have Mary back, even for a day,” Mark says. “My priority is making sure we’re funding things like research and patient care to make sure everyone can get the help they need.”
Interested in following Mark’s journey to Florida, or making a donation to the cause? Follow him on Facebook at @remembermary61 or visit https://www.remembermary.com/.
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