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New Brunswick MLA Biking Across Canada For Kids With Cancer

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When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it is a traumatic time both for the child and their family. In New Brunswick, it is especially difficult as children with cancer have to seek treatment out of province -- the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax has many New Brunswick children among their patients. This creates costs -- money and time (including time off work) -- for families who have to travel to Halifax or other locations such as Montreal.

The Sears National Kids Cancer Ride (you can visit their website here) is a nation-wide fundraising effort where a group of people are selected to bike across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. The ride happens in early September with participants cycling 165 kilometres per day.

Moncton-East MLA Chris Collins is among those who will be biking across Canada this year. Over the next few months, fundraising initiatives -- including teams biking on stationary bikes as part of the Inside Ride - will be held across the province. Funds from Collins' efforts will go to the Lions Sick Children's Fund to help New Brunswick children stricken with cancer and their families cover travel, medication, and other non-medicare covered expenses.

"The last thing a family going through some of the worst conceivable stress should have to worry about," stated Collins, "is whether or not they can afford to get their child to Halifax or Montreal."

In 2001, the only child of Chris Collins and his wife Lisette Richard - Sean who was then 7 years old - had open heart surgery for a congenital heart disease he had been diagnosed with at birth. For a young child undergoing treatment, having family with them to provide support is essential. Chris and his wife were frustrated, however, at the lack of provincial support for travel costs to visit their son who was being treated in Halifax.

This frustration motivated Chris Collins to get involved politically, running for MLA in 2003 in the riding of Moncton-East in a closely fought race, coming within 1,000 votes of defeating the incumbent. Soon after the election, Sean - at age 9 - was diagnosed with cancer. Chris Collins continued his advocacy work, starting a campaign in 2004 so families with children with cancer could receive assistance. Chris Collins would ultimately be elected MLA in a 2007 by-election in the riding of Moncton-East and has continued his advocacy work for sick children and their families.

In 2007, at age 13, Sean Collins lost his battle with cancer. This strengthened the determination of his father to stand up for children with cancer and their families.

In recent years, there have been some positive steps forward in public policy. This includes the hiring of two "patient navigators" in 2008 to help guide families through the complicated bureaucracy they face when seeking treatment for children stricken with cancer. Another positive step is the federal government's extension this year of employment insurance benefits for families with seriously ill children, providing essential support during a financially pressing time.

However, much more needs to be done. Unfortunately an initiative by the last New Brunswick provincial government to provide $1 million in funding for kids with cancer was not implemented. Something that Chris Collins - in his conversations with me - said was a missed opportunity.

To help Chris Collins raise money for kids with cancer - to provide essential support to these children and their families - you can make a donation by visiting this website. Chris has set a goal of $40,000 to be raised in New Brunswick. Also, to volunteer with fundraising activities associated with the Sears National Kids Cancer Ride - either to register a team for the Inside Ride or take a few hours to help with other fundraising efforts - you can e-mail Cathy Bates at cathybates@rogers.com.

Cancer is a traumatizing experience for children receiving treatment and for their families. Chris Collins - Sean's father - cycling across Canada to raised money will provide much needed support and help.