There’s biking and then there’s Big Bike – riding a bicycle so large it takes 30 people pedaling to move it. Riding a bike this size is big fun – but it also requires big goals. For Caroline O’Neil, a facility manager at Robarts Research Institute and Big Bike captain for the Robarts team, that’s exactly the point.
It was more than a decade ago that Caroline and her teammates in London, Ont., first joined the 70,000 riders from more than 200 communities across Canada who pedal in Heart & Stroke’s Big Bike event. Since then the Robarts team has raised $53,000 to support critical research into heart disease and stroke.
Caroline has seen first-hand the impact Big Bike fundraising can make, working in the lab of Heart & Stroke researcher Dr. Geoffrey Pickering. He is investigating ways to slow the aging of blood vessels – and even generate new ones – to prevent heart disease and stroke.
“We see in the lab what a difference this funding makes and the advancement in discoveries that wouldn’t otherwise be possible,” Caroline says.
With an uncle who died at age 46 following a heart attack and a brother-in-law who had a heart attack, Caroline’s passion is more than just professional. “I’ve been personally affected, so I really like to encourage this support,” she says. “Hopefully we can help others.”
As captain of the Robarts Big Bike team for the past five years, Caroline leads by example: she is the team’s top individual fundraiser, bringing in $540 for the 2018 ride.
And from recruiting team members to making sure everyone dresses up in themed costumes and has a great time, she says every part of her role in Big Bike is about feeling good. “There’s a lot of satisfaction knowing that the effort we put in contributes to research and helps to make advancements in the field.”