“It just breaks my heart knowing kids are suffering like this,” said Mendoza, during a phone interview August 10. “I know, in my heart, that I am making a difference.”
The 42-year-old Rockland woman spends her days as a personal support worker, helping seniors and shut-ins. During her off hours and over the weekends, she spends her time exploring every backcountry road and bicycle path in and around Rockland and the neighbouring villages of Bourget, Clarence Creek, and Cheney-Hammond.
Mendoza is part of the Great Cycling Challenge, a Canadian volunteer project to raise money for the Sick Kids Foundation and public awareness about childhood cancer. She got involved with the project not long after deciding to take up bike riding again after more than three decades.
Her main goal at that time was just being able to go riding with her own children. But after posting a message on her own Facebook page about the almost-new second-hand bike she found at almost no cost, she received some information about the Great Cycling Challenge.
“This was really a big challenge for me,” Mendoza said, about her original decision to take up cycling again. “Then I read about this and I thought ‘I want to help too.’”
The first challenge then was getting used to being on a bike again, which meant a lot of time spent riding around and around a nearby parking lot. Then, once her childhood cycling skills were back, Mendoza began going off on short bicycle jaunts around Rockland and later heading off to explore other parts of Clarence-Rockland by bike.
Mendoza has her own sponsor page on the Great Cycling Challenge website at www.greatcyclechallenge.ca/Riders/MelindaMendoza, where she blogs about her travels, including recording how many kilometres she rides on each trip. Her original goal when she began her cycling challenge at the beginning of August was to ride 200 kilometres and raise $500 through pledges to her sponsor page.
She achieved the $500 pledge goal within a week. Now she’s set herself a new pledge goal of $1000 and is already within a couple hundred dollars of meeting that goal. As of Monday, August 10, her cycling total so far is almost 133 kilometres so she may have to decide whether to set herself a new pledge goal while she continues with her riding.
“What I really want to do is help make people aware,” she said. “These kids with cancer should be enjoying life, not fighting for it. I don’t see myself or other riders as heroes. It’s our sponsors, and these sick kids, who are the real heroes.”