When it began in 1999 the TELUS Ride For Dad was a motorcycle event, limited to the summer months, raising funds to save men’s lives by supporting prostate cancer research and increasing public awareness of the disease.
Now, thanks to Chief Warrant Officer Gilles Ouellet and his friends fundraising takes place year-round with participants riding not only motorcycles, but snowmobiles.
“My friend, Bernie Boulay proposed an alternate solution to address fundraising during the low season and the Snowmobile Ride For Dad was born. I have been a snowmobile enthusiast for most of my life, so I was happy to join the Ride For Dad family by helping to get the snowmobiling event started,” said CWO Ouellet, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for 31 years.
The first successful Snowmobile Ride For Dad, initiated by CWO Ouellet and Mr Boulay was proof other power sports could be just as popular as motorcycles, and could raised money for fight against prostate cancer too. Over the past five years drivers of all-terrain vehicles, and watercraft have joined the motorcycle and snowmobile riders raising funds and awareness.
Planning the Snowmobile Ride For Dad begins five to six months prior to riders jumping on their sleds, and work continues one month after the ride takes place to collect and finalize donations.
The logistics of organizing such a large charity event can be very complex depending on the area the snowmobiles are travelling and number of participants. Coordination must take place between local authorities, police forces, trail representatives, business owners, food and facility providers.
Each ride presents organizers with unique challenges like bringing in donations, safety of riders, motivating riders and securing sponsors.
“Every year we tend to worry about the same things. Things like have we made this ride attractive enough for potential riders and donors? Of course, safety for both riders and volunteers is paramount to us. There is no alcohol allowed for the duration of the ride,” said Ouellet.
He also takes motivating riders and volunteers seriously. Whenever possible he tries to make a statement to the group acknowledging their contribution to saving lives through raising awareness and dollars.
“I lost my mother and my sister to this horrible disease, cancer. Furthermore, my father in-law is currently in remission, recovering from prostate cancer, so Snowmobile Ride For Dad is my way, as small as it may be, to do my part in the fight against prostate cancer,” said Ouellet.
Securing sponsors plays a crucial role in the success of the Ride. Many sponsors provide prizes every year. In 2015, Snowmobile Ride For Dad is giving away two major grand prizes, a $5000 shopping spree at Campbell’s Polaris in Shawville, and a $3000 gift certificate from Star Set jewellers in Pembroke.
“We have to keep our sponsors engaged throughout the year by means of periodic visits and hope that year after year, they will find room within their budget to accommodate this great cause,” explained Ouellet.
In 15 years the national TELUS Ride for Dad has raised over 15 million dollars. In five years the Snowmobile Ride for Dad in Pembroke has raised over $110,000 with 100 per cent of pledges made by the riders directed to supporting research and creating awareness of prostate cancer.
On February 14, 2015 at the Timberline Snowmobile Club in Pembroke the Fifth Annual Snowmobile Ride For Dad will take place over 110 kilometres of breathtaking groomed trails throughout the Ottawa Valley. For the past five years Mother Nature has been kind to Ouellet, riders, and volunteers providing ample snow.
Since the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs has adopted the Snowmobile Ride For Dad as one of their official charities, their No-Fee Ride Weekend is set to coincide with the Ride For Dad, meaning anyone who has a registered snowmobile can take part in the fundraiser without cost.
CWO Ouelett is currently posted to the Canadian Army Headquarters, Ottawa. Past postings for Ouellet and his wife Kristine include Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. He says his biggest supporter is his wife who stood by him, offering unwavering support through three operational deployments in Afghanistan.
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**This article was originally published in our Winter 2015 issue**