When conversation leans towards outlandish thoughts like skateboarding across Canada, the ideas don’t usually materialize. But East Coast Longboarding founders Rob Lewis, Carlos Koppen, Jason Pelley and Aaron Jackson aren’t your typical skater boys; this summer, they will be carving their way across Canada to raise money for breast cancer.
“When we were sitting around planning our events for 2006,” says Rob Lewis. “We were tossing around lots of ideas and Carlos jokingly said, ‘Why don’t we skateboard across Canada?’”
The boys instantly leapt at the idea; it was only later that they decided to utilize this opportunity to support a good cause. While they were scratching their heads trying to figure out who could benefit most from this enormous undertaking, a close friend of the group lost her mother to a long struggle with breast cancer. Immediately, Push for the Cure was conceived.
“We’re looking at one in nine women in Canada being diagnosed with breast cancer,” says Lewis. “That’s a huge number and we all know at least nine women. That means one of them is going to be diagnosed, and I can think of nine women who are incredibly important to me. I just can’t imagine of any of them being affected.”
Approximately 21, 000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year. If the symptoms are caught early, breast cancer can be a highly curable disease. Breast cancer is not exclusive to women, as men are susceptible as well.
“When you watch footage from the Run for the Cure, it is 99 percent, women,” says Lewis. “And maybe a few spouses. We want to change that. Most families are centred around the mother and if you are to take that out, that family is in such rough shape. We have a lot to lose as men not to do anything about it and by not getting involved.”
Skateboarders are often tagged as being mischievous slackers, yet Push for the Cure shatters the stereotype. Each of these boarders has either quit their professional job (Koppen) or have put aside studying for medical school (Pelley and Lewis) to pursue Push for the Cure. Not only are they redefining the perception of skateboarders, their aim is to engage a younger demographic and the male population.
“We’re trying to do a dollar drive,” says Koppen. “Essentially we want to get $1 from every man in Canada to show their respect and support for the cause. We don’t feel there is enough involvement from our demographic.”
Koppen, Lewis, Pelley and Jackson will depart from St. John’s, NL on May 1 and intend to roll into Vancouver, BC, by mid-October, just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“Every dime spent so far has come from our own bank accounts,” says Lewis. “Or from small fundraisers we’ve put on. It’s been a bit of a crazy investment. Our longboards and wheels are being donated, but it’s been difficult to get people on board.”
Initially, even the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation was reluctant to back the trip.
“It took them four months to be convinced,” says Lewis. “It’s not that they didn’t think we weren’t serious about it, but they wanted to make sure it was actually going to take place. They could have a lot to lose or a lot to gain by backing us.”
Push for the Cure has teamed up with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in hopes to raise $1 million for research. Toronto photographer and fellow longboarder Benjamin Jordan will be documenting the journey by posting and selling images on the group’s website.
“On average we need to cover a minimum of 40 kilometres a day to keep our time frame,” says Lewis. “It’s perfectly reasonable for us to exceed that. I think as time progresses, we’ll start to fall into our routine and our muscles will stop yelling at us.”
For further information or to donate visit www.pushforthecure.com