Team competes in Kluane Chilkat Bike Relay to support those with cancer

People from far and wide are descending upon Yukon to bike hundreds of kilometres — and some for a good cause.

One team is raising money for the Callanish Society, a group that supports cancer patients and their families.

This weekend, they will be competing in the 26th Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. The annual relay begins Saturday, with about 1,253 riders and 317 teams participating in the 240-kilometre race from Haines Junction, Yukon, to Haines, Alaska.

There are 24 people divided into six teams named "Cycling Team Callanish." Each participant raises money for the society, which is a big help to Callanish, says the organization's founder and executive director Janie Brown.

"It's just lovely to see such a response because we do have to raise all of our money to run our organization — we don't get any government funding," she said.

"This is, you know, sort of a community effort. So we really appreciate any support."

Callanish Society is based in Vancouver, but it has hosted people from all over Canada, including from Whitehorse. It's a centre that provides programming that those living with cancer and their families' needs. There are retreats where people have the opportunity to reflect with each other on what it means to live with cancer and end-of-life support, among other programming.

In fact, it was a Yukon family who participated in a retreat 10 years ago that invited the society to consider competing in the annual race, said Brown.

"So here we are, several years later," said Brown, who will be competing.

Submitted by Mark Callan

Allison Prinsen is the creative arts director of Callanish Society and has gone to retreats as a leukemia patient. Now, she participates in the relay.

"It was very isolating," said Prinsen, who was diagnosed at 25.

She said another woman who was getting cancer treatment at around the same time as her left a sticky note in her medical binder to let her know the Callanish Society exists.

"It completely changed my life," Prinsen said.

She said going to the group helped her deal with all sorts of aspects of leukemia, including a complicated bone marrow transplant, her own mortality, and the fear of re-entering her life again once her treatment was complete.

Prinsen said her participation in the bike relay is a way to claim some of her physicality back.

"I had to learn to walk again," she said. "That does take a long time to come back from, but also you lose confidence in your body."

Elyn Jones/CBC

Prinsen and Brown say they've had an "amazing welcome" in Whitehorse.

They said they were quite busy in the lead-up to the relay — they had already brought in eight participants from the airport, and were helping them with their bikes and boxes, making sandwiches for the ride and designing matching jerseys for everybody to wear.

"This feels like such a community effort," said Brown. "Bringing all the people that we know and love with us we cycle together.

The race begins at 8:20 a.m. for solo and two-person teams, at 8:45 a.m. for four-person teams, and at 9:00 a.m. for eight-person teams.