Manitoba motorcyclists brave rain to raise funds, ‘critical’ awareness for prostate cancer

Manitobans revved up their motorcycles on a chilly, rainy Saturday to raise money for prostate cancer research and education.

The 16th annual Manitoba Motorcycle Ride for Dad kicked off at Polo Park shopping centre on Saturday morning, with the police-escorted parade heading west on Portage Avenue to Assiniboia Downs.  The plan was for the riders to continue to the communities of Selkirk and Gimli, before returning to Winnipeg.

It’s all part of a six-week campaign to spread awareness and education about prostate cancer in Manitoba.

Ed Johner, a spokesperson who has been involved since the annual fundraising ride began, says prostate cancer can easily go undetected.

His father and uncle both died from prostate cancer, but he survived the disease after a doctor diagnosed him during an unrelated physical exam in 2007, when Johner was 49.

“I had no symptoms whatsoever,” he told host Nadia Kidwai during a Saturday interview with CBC Radio’s Weekend Morning Show.

“I’ve been very fortunate and I want guys to know that, you know, once you get to the age of 40, get checked and continue to do so annually.”

A group of police motorcyclists are pictured.
Organizer Ed Johner estimates that 15,000 people have participated in the ride since it began, raising just over $4 million altogether. (Arturo Chang/CBC)

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that nearly 28,000 men in the country will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2024 and the disease will cause 5,000 deaths this year.

“It affects us all — men and women, you know, husbands, brothers, sons, fathers,” said Johner. “It’s critical to get word out there and get guys seeing their doctors regularly.”

About 1,200 people participated in last year’s Ride for Dad, which raised a record amount of just over $600,000 for prostate cancer research and education in Manitoba, according to organizers.

Johner estimates that 15,000 people have participated in the Manitoba ride since it began in 2009, raising just over $4 million altogether.

He says the volunteers and donors who have shown support for the ride over the years have made a difference to Manitobans suffering from prostate cancer.

“The people here are just amazing, and the support has been incredible.”

A man is pictured speaking.
Paul Gibson, who participated in the ride for a sixth year on Saturday, says the rain dampened the event a bit this year but not its spirit. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Paul Gibson, president of Guardians of the Children Canada — a Winnipeg non-profit made up of motorcyclists who want to spread education about child abuse — says it was his sixth time participating in the ride.

About half of the nearly 400 cyclists who registered for the ride showed up Saturday, likely due to rainy conditions, he said.

“We’re all here to just help out men … to help raise money, help build awareness, and make the world a better place for different people,” said Gibson.

“We could do without the rain, [but] we love it.”