Melissa Young and Michelle Connors are sisters and Riders in this year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal. The two share a lot in common – their love of the outdoors, passion for travel and dedication to family. Although sisters can sometimes grow apart over the years with busy lifestyles and schedules, family is like the North Star – always bringing you home, no matter how that changes over time.

“We’re both really busy – I go camping on the weekends and Michelle is busy with her family so we live fairly separate lives day-to-day. Last year, training for this event gave us something to do together and a common goal to work towards,” says Melissa.

“It was nice to go for a ride then come back and have a barbecue and a glass of wine together,” added Michelle.

This will be Melissa’s fifth year riding on the QEII Foundation’s host organization team. Melissa has worked at the QEII Foundation for over two decades and her passion for philanthropy has always shined bright in her Ride fundraising efforts. Melissa has been on a personal health and fitness journey for several years, so taking part in Ride was an easy fit into her active lifestyle. “When I started with Ride in 2016, I was 39, on the cusp of turning 40. That was my big motivation, to try to get myself in better shape as I moved into my forties,” says Melissa.

In 2020, Michelle joined because that’s what sisters do. Your main shtick as a sister is support and that’s exactly why Michelle got involved. “I guess I didn’t really decide to join,” shares Michelle. “I was just saying I had a bicycle and my sister said, well, congratulations, I just signed you up and you’re riding with me.” Michelle and Melissa both laugh in the way only sisters do.

Not only were Melissa and Michelle eager to hop in the saddle as a way to get fit and spend time together, but the cause was also an inspiration.

“It was all about getting healthy and giving back to a cause that really gave us the gift of time,” says Melissa. “I have always ridden for our mom. She was stage four breast cancer and metastatic, and now we are about to celebrate her twelve years as a cancer survivor at the end of May. It feels like a miracle that she’s still here with us today.”

When Michelle and Melissa’s mom, Flo, was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, they started to mentally prepare themselves – they didn’t know how much time they had left with her. Now twelve years later, the sisters are grateful for their mom’s care team at the QEII Health Sciences Centre and eager to give back so that other families can receive the same world-class care.

“I’ve had my mother with me for 12 years beyond what we imagined possible because of the team at the QEII. She had a fantastic oncologist, whom she still sees to this day, amazing nurses – nothing but the greatest care. I want to give back because there could be other families in the same situation as ours,” says Melissa. “Whatever we can do to make sure we get the best equipment, technology and care here at home, I think that’s what we need to do.”

Funds raised this year will bring the QEII one step closer to introducing new state-of-the-art genetic sequencing technology to analyze the genes of thousands of tumour samples each year. Better outcomes, fewer side effects, access to new therapies or clinical trials are all benefits this technology will bring to cancer patients, here at home. It can even spare patients from unnecessary treatments. This technology will be a game-changer for those patients facing late-stage cancers.

As a Ride veteran, Melissa has incredible expertise in fundraising and consistently knocks her goal out-of-the-park by using creative fundraising strategies to engage her network.

“Some might find it daunting to raise the $1,000 minimum, but it’s all about finding innovative ways to raise the funds. I got creative last summer with my friends at the campground and did a 100 Square Sale where people could buy a square for $20 and when all squares were sold, and funds were collected, I drew for the winning number using a random number generator. The person who purchased the square with the winning number won 50 per cent of the earnings and I was able to hit my goal,” explains Melissa. Learn more about this fundraising strategy and how to do it yourself here.

With over 1,300 Riders registered for this year’s event, the buzz is building and many community members are jumping in to support the cause. Riders, families, and businesses big and small are working together to raise funds to bring new genetic sequencing technology home to the QEII. Twig & Twine Floristry is one small, local business that is supporting the cause this Mother’s Day by selling gorgeous Mother’s Day bouquets, with $1.00 from each order coming back to support a Rider in the event. An incredible $164 was raised and the beautiful bouquets were a sell-out – a testament to the jaw-dropping florals and strong community support for the cause.

As Mother’s Day approaches, many of us think about how grateful we are for our moms and mother figures in our lives. Melissa and Michelle are especially filled with gratitude during this time as they celebrate Mother’s Day and their mom’s twelve years as a survivor. The sisters feel lucky to be able to participate in this event and feel that it’s a win-win. Getting outside in nature, having the benefits of physical activity, spending time together, and raising funds for a cause close to their hearts.



Rider Stories are presented by:

Our Ride Community is comprised of inspiring advocates, warriors, survivors and fighters. This community is the reason we ride, to make an impact on cancer care for them and for future generations. As a proud sponsor of Ride for Cancer, AstraZeneca helps share these stories and inspires our community to continue the fight against cancer.

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