Local man cycles the extra mile for children with cancer

Mark Knowles was never your average lycra-wearing cyclist, nor did he want to become a community activist. When he heard about the Great Cycle Challenge (GCC) and the 79,000 riders raising money for children with cancer through the Children’s Medical Research Institute, his simple thought was, “Win-win. Maybe then I’ll get a little healthier and help other people while I’m at it.”

Over 3,000 miles and $14,000 raised later, when you ask Mark if he’s an “active activist” his answer is succinct. “New.”

Mark says he’s helping where he can, organizing group rides like last Sunday around Lake Burley Griffin. He and his platoon in their pop art GCC jerseys are a familiar sight to those who visit the shared path, raising awareness for the cause.

“You can take it more seriously, or you can do it from your living room. There is a lady in a nursing home who raised $1000 pedaling her spin bike.

Mark has raised nearly $4,000 this year alone. He says the real heroes are his family, friends and colleagues who continue to sponsor him. “I just can’t thank them enough.”

This year, his daughter Ashley chooses to join him while she is three months pregnant with Mark’s first grandchild.

This new motivation is unfortunately inspired by Mark’s own battle with colon cancer and then liver cancer.

“You fight it with your family. You realize what’s important to you and you start to appreciate your family and friends,” said Mark.

“When I started doing the Great Cycle Challenge I had no connection with cancer, but now it’s personal,” he said.

“Now that I’ve had my own battle with cancer, I can see how much of an impact it has on your life. I can’t imagine how much worse it must be for kids.

“My first grandchild is coming soon and I hope the research done today will help children like her in the future.

“I had a childhood. I enjoyed it without any illness or complications. I want all the kids who have experience not to have to deal with cancer and treatments, pokes and bumps and isolation. Some of these kids still come out with a smile on their face. Let’s put an end to suffering.”

Mark is an influencer in the community, admit it or not, he has managed to create positive ripples from his diagnosis.

“When you turn 50, you often get a colon cancer screening kit. A bunch of my friends just had those kits in their bathroom. After my diagnosis, I was able to influence them to finally crack them and get tested.”

Mark has been invited to the Children’s Medical Research Institute in Sydney for a tour of everything he has cycled for, but unfortunately couldn’t go due to lockdowns. He hopes to see it again someday.
For now, he’s focused on going the extra mile (literally) now that restrictions have been relaxed.

“Now that Canberra is locked down, we are very excited to come out swinging and driving for a few more miles.”

Mark has one simple goal: “Raise money, cure cancer”.

“We have no idea what the impact will be from what we’re doing today, but hopefully we’ll pay it forward, toward a cure.”

If you would like to participate in the Great Cycle Challenge in Australia or make a donation, visit greatcyclechallenge.com.au

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