Maike Van Niekerk is certainly receiving the famous Newfoundland hospitality as she rides across the province.
The 19-year-old nursing student from Massey Drive is cycling from St. Anthony to St. John’s raising money and awareness pertaining to the obstacles and deficiencies around cancer treatment in the province.
She started her Northern Peninsula trek last week, and was in Corner Brook Wednesday for a rare day of rest.
Having surpassed $27,000 of her $30,000 goal for Katrin’s Karepackage — the organization she started to honour her mother’s memory, whom she lost through a battle against breast cancer three years ago — Van Niekerk is amazed by the generosity of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Dalhousie University student said her lofty goal once seemed insurmountable. Angst had set in as she returned home from Halifax to begin fundraising, however, the momentum quickly began. Corporate donations were rolling in and she had more than $26,000 before she strapped on her helmet in St. Anthony on July 31.
The generosity comes from everybody being personally impacted by cancer, said to Van Niekerk, but she realizes there is more to it than that.
“Newfoundlanders just care so much about their fellow citizens of Newfoundland that they are willing to donate to those people, even if they don’t know them,” Van Niekerk said.
It feels like the donations she receives are being made to the people of the province, she said.
She pre-arranged her accommodations, with hotel and bed and breakfast owners opening their doors free of charge. In some of the smaller communities, homeowners are even inviting her in.
What wasn’t arranged was the welcoming. Van Niekerk said some people in these communities did the networking for her. She had visitors awaiting her arrival in some places and even small fundraisers were held for the cause. Along the route, people have been giving her the courtesy honk, but she has also been stopped by passing motorists providing encouragement and inspiration. She even met a family returning from St. John’s, where both son and daughter were receiving radiation treatments.
An active and healthy young woman, Van Niekerk is also endorsing the benefits of that lifestyle in the prevention of cancer.
With the northerly winds of St. Anthony and the tough climbs through Gros Morne at her back, she will leave Deer Lake today and head east for the remaining 700 kilometres. She expects to reach St. John’s on Aug. 13.
The fund will help offset travel costs of cancer patients and their families who must travel to St. John’s for radiation treatment. She won the online Start Something with Alesse contest's “start inspiring, non-profit”category with her venture.