Alberta Cancer Foundation

Meet Team One Aim

Illustration by Isabelle Cardinal.

Great teams happen on purpose. The One Aim Team, a group of cyclists who have participated in the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer in support of the Alberta Cancer Foundation for a decade, is a shining example.

One Aim was officially formed in 2010 from a training group that took part in the inaugural 2009 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. That first year, the team had 18 riders and raised more than $75,000.

Today, the Calgary-based team consists of 58 riders, including 15 cancer survivors, and it completed its 10th 200-kilometre Ride this past August. Like the name suggests, the team’s one aim is to end cancer, and, to date, it has raised over $2.7 million for the Alberta Cancer Foundation.

What makes it unique is its focus on inclusivity. It welcomes everyone from beginner to veteran cyclists, regardless of age, size and athletic ability, and is focused on teamwork and building community. Here, two of One Aim’s captains share exactly what makes the team so special.

Kevin Jones, Leading by Example

Now one of One Aim’s four team captains, Kevin Jones showed up to his first training cycle for the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2009 with a heavy mountain bike, the wrong gear and a bone to pick with cancer. This moment was significant for Jones, who lost his little sister to cancer 15 years before. He says it was fellow rider Dr. Nigel Brockton — One Aim’s original captain and a research scientist in molecular cancer epidemiology — who encouraged him on that first ride and exemplified what partnerships can do. Now, Jones participates every year.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been prepared in any way, shape or form for the [Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer] that year if it hadn’t been for Nigel having training rides, and that became the foundation for our team. Nigel worked to make training rides accessible, open and enjoyable. The more training you do, the better you’ll be prepared for the Ride, so by removing challenges people have in getting out training, showing them how it’s done and making it enjoyable, he helped many people train much more than they would have.

“We accept anybody [on One Aim]. A lot of people who sign up to do this are signing up because of the cause, not because they are a strong cyclist, and just like myself, they need someone to get them ready. Someone to tell them, ‘You need different shoes, you’re going to need a rain jacket and maybe pump your tires some more,’— all the little things. It’s really something you learn by doing.

“Accessibility is really important. We say ‘No Drop’ (meaning no-one gets left behind), and we mean it. You can show up [to one of our three weekly training rides] completely unprepared — like I was that first time. We’re ready to usher you through the process.

“A big part of what makes our team ‘sticky’ in terms of people joining us and sticking around is that after almost every one of our training rides we have ‘rehydration’ at either a clubhouse or a pub where you sit face to face and that really creates a team atmosphere.

“Fundraising is important but what ties it together for me is creating a culture where people are living lives in which they are less likely to get that cancer diagnosis in the first place.”

Phil Faas, Finding Support

Phil Faas’s wife, Cindy, was in the process of chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2014 when she stumbled upon information about the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer and Team One Aim at a spin fundraiser event at Southcentre Mall. A year later, after completing chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation, Cindy was declared cancer-free. In celebration, the couple took part in the 2015 Ride as part of the One Aim Team and have continued to ride together ever since.

“Cindy received top-notch treatment at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, and everyone we dealt with was absolutely amazing. Participating in the Ride was a way to pay it forward and say ‘thank you’ for all the treatment we received.

“[That first year] we were welcomed with open arms. The whole ethos of One Aim is everyone is welcome. Like, even when we were in the bike shop my wife was texting Nigel, ‘Here’s what they are showing us.’ We were about to spend $2,500 on a pair of bikes, so it was nice to have someone backing us up.

“As team captain, I try to put new riders at ease by explaining my backstory. I mention I’m not a lifetime cyclist, I started five years ago and smoked right up until the time my wife got diagnosed with cancer. I’m not like a lot of cyclists you see. [But] anyone can do this, and everyone starts at the beginning. If there’s a new person training, we [captains and other experienced riders] stick with them for the first ride because we know how daunting it can be.

“In a lot of ways, cycling and One Aim saved my life. There’s no way I could go back to my old lifestyle because I’ve fallen in love with cycling, and the friends we have made are lifetime friends, not just cycling friends. There’s such great people and we’re all here for the same cause. That bond goes a very long way.”