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Nearly 10 years ago, four friends set out to raise money for, and awareness of, breast cancer, crossing Canada by long skateboard, one push at a time. Now, one of the participants looks back on his epic adventure.
Text by: Cat Allen
Country: Canada

n 2006, four young Canadians set out on an epic journey. The mode of transport? Longboards. The route? Across the country. The reason? Raising awareness and money for breast cancer.

Benjamin Jordan, Aaron Jackson, Carlos Koppen and Rob Lewis set out from eastern Canada for “Push for the Cure” to fight a disease that affects thousands of women every year. After overcoming financial obstacles, sleeping many cramped nights in an old motorhome, and capturing the hearts of many across the country, they rolled into Vancouver, in western Canada, on their longboards, a longer version of the traditional skateboard. On arriving at their destination, they had raised almost $100,000 Canadian, an amount that would soon increase to $500,000. They had just completed what was to be deemed as the single most- publicised event in Canada in 2006.

I happened to be living in Vancouver then and heard about the group a couple of months before their planned arrival. Some of the event organisers on the welcome committee asked me to shoot a portrait series of photographs to be sold in a silent auction to help raise more funds for the charity. My own project, “Save These Girls”, was born, and I was thrilled to be involved in this incredible project.

After many years, I was lucky enough to catch up with my old friend, Benjamin Jordan, photographer, documentary maker, and adventurer, and one of the four guys on the original Push for the Cure team.

TT:

Hi, Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I cannot believe it has been almost 10 years already.

Ben:

It’s been a while. Sometimes it feels like 10 days, sometimes more like 10 lifetimes since we made that journey.

It is especially interesting as I have been looking through all these photos that I took throughout the process, putting together a selection of photos, kind of like a 10-year anniversary selection. It has brought back a lot of feelings and memories from that time.

TT:

So, can you please tell us what Push for the Cure is?

Ben:

Push for the Cure (PFTC) was the expedition that I and three other Canadians, Carlos, Aaron and Rob, set out on back in 2006. PFTC used longboards to help capture the attention of younger demographics, raising awareness about this terrible disease that will tragically affect someone we know in our lifetimes. The idea was to raise consciousness and alertness as much as money.

I was originally approached by the guys in regards to organising a meet-up skateboard event in Toronto, the city I am from. However, I knew straightaway that I would love to be involved in a more hands-on capacity than for just a one-off event, so I offered to join the team for the whole trip as the documentary maker.

TT:

What made the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation the charity of choice? Was someone you all knew affected by the disease?

Ben:

To be honest, no. None of the guys had been affected directly by breast cancer. However, on learning that 1 in 9 women will contract cancer at some time in their lifetime, and knowing more than nine women amongst them, it seemed that raising not just money, but also the awareness about this dreadful disease, [was more important]. Coming on board at a later stage, I was, of course, fully supportive of this cause.

TT:

So where did you start from and when?

Ben:

We left on May 1, 2006, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the east of Canada. The original plan was to set off from St. John’s in Newfoundland, right on the east coast of the country. However, due to time and financial constrictions, the route was altered slightly. The end point was always planned as the West Coast, to be precise, Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, a journey of just under 6,000 kilometres. We had limited funds, an old and temperamental, but beautifully decorated (recreational vehicle) and our four trusty longboards.

TT:

Can you please describe for us a typical day during your trip?

Ben:

Wake up, skateboard, go to sleep! Basically, we would all wake up rather squashed in the team RV, which we affectionately called Lucy. We would then longboard in 10-kilometre stints, only three of us would skate at one time, the fourth would be driving, so we would switch out to keep things fair and interesting. It was important to keep hydrated and maintain topped-up energy levels. There were also other dailyerrands” we had to run. Each time we needed gas, it would be my job to run into the gas station and tell them about what we were doing and [ask] if there was any possibility of them contributing gas to our cause. At mealtimes we would do the same in restaurants, and in the evenings, one of the other guys would try to acquire hotel or motel rooms, which made for a pleasant break from sleeping in the RV. Amazingly, across the journey, we had more nights in donated accommodation than in the van. To be honest, the project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of many very friendly Canadians. So many people got behind us and supported us so much.

One of my main jobs (other than skating, of course) was keeping our online audience engaged. [Bear] in mind social media wasn’t as accessible 10 years ago as it is today. We did have a website, and I kept this updated with photographs, videos and stories, basically documenting the trip so people knew who we were, where we were, and why we were doing what we were doing.

TT:

What were the biggest challenges you faced during your trip?

Ben:

I thought the hardest trials would be the physical strain of skating, and possibly financial constraints. However, it was more demanding to deal with the interpersonal stuff of four guys spending that much time together in quite an intense situation.

I’d say another difficulty was certainly raising enough media hype and attention around what we were doing.

TT:

Did you get lots of media attention during your adventure?

Ben:

Yes, we did, but it wasn’t easy. So many people are doing amazing things for charity these days, and we had to really work hard to get the media to listen to what it is that we were doing. I think the fact that we were four young men fighting for breast cancer helped, in the sense that it is often older women campaigning for a cause such as this. We used our [many] photos and [extensive] video library to also display what a labour of love the project was for each and every one of us.

TT:

It obviously paid off, as in 2007 you were chosen as the very prestigious role of the Calgary Stampede Parade Marshals. Can you tell us a little more about this?

Ben:

We were like celebrities! The Stampede chooses a yearly charity, and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation put our names forward, and we were selected. We hadn’t been all together as a team since the end of the trip, so it was crazy being together once again. We had lots of press engagements and we literally led the parade, at the very front, with our longboards. It was an intense week, but really great for raising even more awareness and funds for the charity.

TT:

Incredible! So going back to the finale of your incredible trip, how were you welcomed in Vancouver?

Ben:

To be completely honest, it was kind of anticlimactic. None of us wanted it to end. We had a huge welcome, and lots of people came out to longboard the last leg of the journey with us, which was absolutely amazing. It was incredible to know that we had… achieved what we set out to do, but it also marked the end of an adventure. We had a week of events and music around the city, and raising more money and awareness, and, of course, your very own photo portraiture series, Cat. It was certainly a week for every member of the team, as well as the project, to be celebrated. It became a time for us all to reflect on what it was we had just achieved.

Also within the first few days of arriving in Vancouver, as a memory of what we had just completed, all four of us got matching tattoos of our logo (the Canadian maple leaf adorned with the pink breast cancer ribbon and a silhouette of a longboarder). Unexpectedly about 100 people now have that design tattooed somewhere on their bodies. Such an amazing display of support!

TT:

Wow! I guess that shows how much impact you guys and the cause had on so many people, I know I was deeply affected and impressed by your plight, hence my involvement with the photo project.

Ben, can you please describe your PFTC experience in 5 words.

Ben:

Unknown, fear, challenges, solutions, growth

TT:

Finally, one last question, did you have one defining moment? Or multiple ones? Or were you on a longboarding autopilot?

Ben:

Every day was both epic and amazing.

TOP ‘PUSH FOR THE CURE’ FACTS
Rob, Aaron, Carlos and Benjamin longboarded for a total of 5 months 9 days

Each and every metre of the almost 6,000 kilometres was longboarded by at least three members of the team.

Almost $100,000 Canadian were raised during the first PFTC. Thanks to the publicity from the 2007 Calgary Stampede, that amount increased to $500,000.

To date, $937,242 Canadian have been raised, thanks to yearly events and fundraising by both the original team and their huge army of supporters.

Yearly “Push for the Cure” longboard meet-ups take place, raising more funds for both breast cancer and other great causes.



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Push for the Cure

In 2006, four young Canadians set out on an epic journey, crossing Canada by longboard to raise awareness and money for breast cancer. For this they overcame financial obstacles, slept many cramped nights in an old motorhome, and depended on the kindness of strangers. This event is now known as The Push for The Cure.

Their journey began on May 1st, 2006 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and ended in Vancouver, British Columbia, almost 6000 kilometres later. They took turns driving so that there were always 3 people on skateboards and to keep things interesting and fair. Many times they slept in hotels to take a break from sleeping in the van and often they had free meals at restaurants that wanted to show their support. website that they updated regularly with photos, videos, and stories, documenting the trip so people could know who they were, where they were, and why they were doing the trip. They had a lot of media attention during the trip and raised almost $100,000 Canadian on that first trip. In 2007 they were chosen as the Calgary Stampede Parade Marshals and this helped them to raise their donations to $500,000.

There continue to be yearly events to raise funds and awareness and to date they have raised $937,242 Canadian.

 

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