Participants in the 9th Annual Chip Run for local cancer care gather at the Dairy Queen in Smithers prior to the ride to Kitwanga which raised $15,000 this year. (Facebook photo)

Chip Run raises $15K for local cancer care despite COVID

A record number of 95 motorcycles participated in the annual ride from Smithers to Kitwanga and back

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the 9th Annual Chip Run for the Smithers Community Cancer Care Team (CCCT) were determined to make the fundraiser a resounding success.

They were not disappointed. A record 95 motorcycles participated July 25 in the ride from Smithers to Kitwanga and back with stops in New Hazelton, Kitwanga and Seely Lake raising $15,000. Although down from last year’s total, Lainie Waterhouse said they were pleased with the result given the circumstances.

“Last year we had 88 bikes and raised $20K,” she said. “So we were quite happy with the increase of bikes this year. Normally we do a large auction, but because of COVID we opted out of that this year. So, still impressed with the dollar figure. Every one of us that rides has known someone or has family that suffers from this disease.”

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And the benefits are local.

“The support is huge because the money stays in the Bulkley Valley,” Waterhouse said.

Alice Christensen, president of the CCCT said the support of the Chip Run is “huge” for her organization, which supports local patients with costs not covered by the provincial plan.

“We are extremely thankful and I know I can speak on behalf of all of the patients,” she said. “Cancer is actually a costly diagnosis. There’s all kinds of costs involved with… travel and accommodations, but there’s all kinds of other costs with regard to medication and tests and things that they have to pay partial or all for, so anything we have coming in is going to help.

“We’re really lucky in the Bulkley Valley to be able to have this group that is able to support patients and their families and caregivers.”

The ride is made in memory of Waterhouse’s brother Bob “The Chip Guy” Spooner, who died from cancer in 2011 at the age of 45.

Aside from the auction, the money comes from the sale of T-shirts, jacket patches and poker hands. At each stop along the way, participants who bought a hand picks up a playing card. At the end of the run, the best hand wins half the cash.

Also, 37 Grille in Kitwanga provided a sandwich lunch for $15, $5 of which went to the charity.

Traditionally the run has ended at the Royal Canadian Legion, but because of the coronavirus, they decided to move the festivities outdoors to Fran Rothery’s and Doug “EP” Amos’s acreage on the Bulkley River. Sanitizing stations were set up and masks provided for those who wanted them.

There were motorcycle games, music, refreshments, barbecue beef on a bun and fire pits. Bob’s brother Tom Spooner emceed the events.

What started out in 2012 as an intimate affair with 13 bikes and $1,500 raised has exploded and Waterhouse expects the 10th anniversary to be special.

“Next year will be a big one, and each year the ride seems to grow by about 10 bikes,” she said. “It’s now turning into one of the largest rides in northern B.C.”

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