May 27, 2018 by Alan S. Hale
Saturday's rain held off long enough for hundreds of people to arrive at St. Lawrence College bright and early for the Children Treatment Centre's Bike-a-Thon Plus.
The annual event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the treatment centre, which provides free care to children who are victims of sexual abuse. The centre has been able to operate in Cornwall for decades without financial assistance from any level of government because of the private donations it receives from events like the bike-a-thon. Last year's event raised about $152,000, and the bike-a-thon's chairman, Peter Asquini, is optimistic that after all the donations expected to come in over the next week are counted they will get somewhere near that, even if the weather hurt attendance on Saturday.
"It's been a great morning, the turnout has been fantastic ... it looks like the donations are going along quite well. They were at $50,000 (half an hour after we started,) We're on schedule to have another great year, and we can't thank the community enough," exclaimed Asquini.
Even with dark clouds threatening on the horizon, hundreds of people flocked to the college for the festivities.
The day started off with a ceremonial walk while the almost 80 motorcycle riders participating in the bike-a-thon's ride embarked on their journey."We did the ceremonial a little differently this year," said Asquini. "As the walkers left out the front drive, they formed an honour guard for the riders as they left. It was an impressive sight to see."
Activities took place at the college throughout the morning, including the wheelchair rally, which held races to see who could complete an obstacle course the fastest. People sat on the grass between the college and the river and munched on free hot dogs and hamburgers cooked up by volunteers while watching the MacCullouch Dancers dressed in leotards, highland dancing outfits, and even sailor suits perform impressive choreographies. Not far away, small children were riding full grown horses.
Inside the college building, there was even more going on. The room was packed with dozens of children, getting their faces painted, rooting blindfolded through an "insect" sensory bin, doing arts and crafts and watching performers such as magician Tony Lee or enthusiastically doing Zumba during a free class.
The rain that threatened all morning arrived just as the second-annual tug-of-war between first responder organizations was about to begin. After a short wait to see if it would pass, the contest went ahead with firefighters, paramedics and police officers from across the region digging their heels into the wet earth and pulling for the cause.
St. Lawrence College's construction students donated wooden adirondack-style rocking chairs which were sold for $100 each to raise money for the treatment centre.
But it was people like Isabelle Paquette who brought in the big bucks. Paquette, a young girl, raised $2,300 for last year' bike-a-thon by selling cupcakes on Facebook. She did it again this year and nearly doubled the size of her donation to $4,050. A bit shy, Paquette said she feels good about raising so much money but isn't sure why she got so many more orders this year.