Sears Canada and Coast to Coast Against Cancer have a long history of working together to help children and families impacted by childhood cancer. We sat down with Alicia Richler, who is Director of the Sears Canada Charitable Foundation, to learn about how Sears became involved, and what makes the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride so special!
Sears Canada has been supporting charitable efforts since the Company was founded in 1953, with the singular focus of after school youth development. By the early 2000’s, they wanted to expand to a health related cause as well, and they discovered that childhood cancer is extremely underfunded. When Jeff Rushton, founder of CTCACF, was introduced to the leadership team at Sears they knew Sears was a match with our mission.
The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride was the first connection between Sears and childhood cancer, and they were drawn to the 100% donation model that sponsorship enabled- it meant that while they covered event costs, every receiptable donation made would go directly to making a difference in the lives of children and families impacted by childhood cancer!
Sears, being a national company, really wanted to partner with an event and cause that had a national impact. As the riders pedal across the country, they’re greeted by the many Sears Department, Home store, Hometown and catalogue locations in cities and small towns. These are places where riders are welcomed, fed, and made to feel at home on the road! Returning riders and volunteers have come to expect and look forward to seeing certain staff and being fed the same amazing meals year over year- this continual support makes the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride a family of participants and supporters.
Every year, Sears stores adopt a rider from the national team. When “their” rider comes into town, the staff get extremely excited to meet the person who they’ve supported through fundraising, and has really put a face on the event for them. This has been a great way to engage Sears staff with something outside of their day to day work with the company. The riders are also excited to meet their stores and staff, as well as all the children and families who come out to greet them.
Some of the national riders and volunteers who come back over and over again are Sears employees, and they keep us deeply connected. Carlo Di Domizio has either ridden or volunteered every year since 2008, and Ken Cross will be riding for his 5th year in 2015, having joined us after his daughter’s diagnosis of leukemia in 2008 (she’s doing great, 5 years after her bone marrow transplant). Carlo and Ken, among many other Sears employees, are strong members of the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride family.
There are also stores who are deeply involved in the cause. In Fredericton, Jill Painter spreads word of the event throughout the entire community, and involves the fire and police departments late at night in greeting the riders every year, making it a very memorable stop near the end of the ride every year! Alicia told the story of the group’s arrival at Sears in Fredericton after a long day in 2013, greeted by 2 little girls aged 3 ½ years old, who had become friends during treatment at the IWK Hospital in Halifax, and how their joy and enthusiasm helped melt away all the other things that happened that day. These are some of the things that make this ride so meaningful to riders, volunteers, and our Sears partners.
When asked to sum up Coast to Coast Against Cancer in 3 words, Alicia selected the famous words of Jeff Rushton: “Feel the love!”. And we certainly feel the love from Sears in their support of the national ride, and the foundation.