As an actor, Peter Byrnes has played a doctor in the Rocky Horror Show, a leper in Jesus Christ Superstar and Belle’s father in Beauty and The Beast.
Now, the 51-year-old Highland Elementary School Grade 5 teacher is dealing with real life trying to make a difference in finding a cure for cancer. Byrnes, a Vernon father of two sons, has been riding all month in the Great Cycle Challenge to fight kids’ cancer and will spin and swim in the annual Kal RATS Spring Triathlon Sunday morning at Kin Beach.
“A pop up on Facebook invited me to ride in support of conquering children’s cancer,” said Byrnes. “Having lost three close relatives in the last two years to cancer, I understood the pain, uncertainty and heartbreak associated with the disease. Children shouldn’t have to fight this disease. Childhood is for laughter, love and learning. There are so many great causes but I decided this is where I would make my stand.”
Byrnes, who moved to Vernon in 1993 from Australia, says the Great Cycle Challenge has raised more than $3 million already with 18,000 people covering a million kilometres to date.
“More than 1,400 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, and it’s the biggest killer of children from disease in Canada,” said Byrnes, who along with Armstrong buddy Mark Wehner, has qualified for the World Triathlon Championships this September in Brisbane. “Kids should be living life, not fighting for it. So I am raising funds through my challenge to help these kids and support SickKids Foundation to allow them to continue their work in developing treatments and finding a cure for childhood cancer.”
He is asking for support to give kids the brighter futures they deserve. Statistics show 27 children in Canada are diagnosed with cancer every week.
“Your support will change little lives. My goal is to ride 1,000 kilometres in June. I have ridden 698-k and raised $1,315 so far.”
To draw greater attention to the cause, Byrnes is throwing down a challenge. He will complete the 750-metre swim and 18.5-k cycle in the triathlon. A mountain bike crash has curtailed his running for a while, but his friend Ian McKechnie will be completing the five-k run. The triathlon starts Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
“My challenge is that my team, with a 51-year-old school teacher and a 37-year-old dairy farmer, will place top-10 out of 160 entries or I will donate $100 to the charity. If I do place top-10, I am asking challengers to donate $10 to the Great Cycle Challenge. Big thanks to Iron Heart Gym, Sun Country Cycle, Ruth at Professional Hands Massage Therapy and to all my friends and family for all their support and encouragement.”
People can donate money at https://greatcyclechallenge.ca/Riders/PeterByrnes