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3 September, 2021

A ride with a heart

IT TAKES a lot of heart to grab your bike and tackle the gruelling 333-kilometre trek from Cairns to Cooktown.

By Peter McCullagh

Team WTF members Rhonda Coghlan and Dan Elsden. PHOTO: Peter McCullagh

For many participants it’s a journey with a personal cause, for others it’s an opportunity to test themselves and raise funds for the cardiac and respiratory services here in the North.

Preparation for the 2021 QSuper Cardiac Challenge is well underway with teams in full training and fundraising mode.

Launched in 2007, the QSuper Cardiac Challenge has raised in excess of $4 million for cardiac services in Far North Queensland.

The ‘father’ of the Challenge is Pete McNally a passionate cycling enthusiast, who was born with congenital heart problems.

In 2005 McNally floated a ‘crazy idea’ of a fundraising bike ride, and as they say, the rest is history.

The event has grown over the years to now include an enormous number of medical staff from the hospital and in particular the Cardiac Care Unit in association with former patients and family who have lost loved ones to heart disease.

The three-day event commences in Cairns September 25 and concludes in Cooktown at the Waterpark on Monday 27. Day One sees 29 teams and approximately 270 riders leave from the Skyrail at 6am in Cairns to ride to Mt Carbine via the Kuranda Range.

After an overnight stay they leave early for a 113-kilometre stint to Lakeland. The final leg, Lakeland to Cooktown is a ‘brief’ 79-kilometre pedal.

Fundraising for this year’s Challenge is coasting along nicely with almost $250,000 raised for their target of $300,000.

Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation CEO Tony Williamson is confident the fundraising target this year will be met.

“We think it’s amazing how Cairns has rallied behind the QSuper Cardiac Challenge this year. “Fundraising is going exceptionally well for three weeks out from the event and we are confident of smashing the $300,000 figure and would like to exceed that and do the best ever at $400,000,” Mr Williamson said.

“It’s very appropriate that Far North Queensland residents know the significance of having a high-level cardiac unit based at the Cairns Hospital.

“As a result, we have so many people wanting to contribute to the cause – not just riders, but volunteers and supporters and most important is the fundraisers.

“We are very confident of smashing our $300,000 target and we’re very excited by the possibilities that opens up by raising such a significant amount of money.

“I would urge everyone to get behind the QSuper Cardiac Challenge as we reach the finale in Cooktown on September 27.”

One of the leading fundraising teams this year is WTF (Where’s The Finish). Nineteen very dedicated and passionate riders and support staff committed to raising collectively  $50,000 for the Foundation.

Cairns Regional Council’s Division 8 Councillor Rhonda Coghlan is a very vocal supporter of the Challenge and also a member of Team WTF.

“We really could have been called WTBF, Where’s The Bloody Finish? The ride is simply amazing.

“It’s incredible the camaraderie within all riders. The biggest challenge is not Kuranda, it’s the Desailly Range. Three point seven kilometres of hell early on day two. A lot of the riders take the bus to the top, as only the best, fittest, or mongrel riders tackling that climb.

“But after the summit, the views coming down are out of this world,” Ms Coghlan said.

“The Cardiac Challenge is really important to me. It tests me, and the pain I have to ensure during the ride is nothing compared to the pain and anguish suffered by a patient with a cardiac issue.”

The Challenge is sponsored again this year by QSuper. As the main superannuation provider to Queensland Health, it was a natural fit for QSuper to support the Challenge. Not just from corporate support to members but supporting a fundraiser that actively promotes healthy recreation.

QSuper Chief Executive Officer Michael Pennisi said the QSuper Cardiac Challenge is an example of how corporate and community support can work together to bring greater outcomes for Queenslanders.

“QSuper looks after the retirement savings of many Queensland Health employees in the state’s Far North and we are proud to support an initiative that helps our members working in cardiac health provide state-of-the-art care for their patients,” Mr Pennisi said.

“Through the challenge we’re able to ensure all the incredible fundraising efforts by participants go directly to supporting the cardiac care and facilities available to the Far North Queensland community.”

Team WTF member, Dan Elsden was only 32 when he suffered serious cardiac issues. Having to fly to Brisbane for essential lifesaving treatment, now thanks to the fundraising associated with the Challenge Dan can receive his ongoing treatment here in Cairns supported by his family.

All funds raised during the QSuper Cardiac Challenge goes directly to support Cardiac and respiratory services here in Cairns and region. To find out more and to lend your support you can find them online.

Members of Quinny’s Supplies Team: Sean McGuinness, Kevin Talbot, Pascale Clayton, Ron Leahy and Tony Quinn


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