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Elora teen’s legacy lives on, inspiring a nation

Team Addy of The Great Cycle Challenge Canada has raised $1.1 million for cancer research in less than two weeks

When Addison Hill was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, the community rallied around her and her family. Even after she passed away in July, her story continued to touch thousands. Now, cyclists across the country are banding together to raise money for cancer research in her name. 

The Great Cycle Challenge Canada (GCC) is SickKids’ annual nation-wide cycling fundraiser for kid’s cancer research. The organization wanted to surprise Addison, better known as Addy, for her 14th birthday by creating a team “to show her that her memory will live on and she will never be forgotten … that she has inspired a nation with her bravery, courage and fighting spirit.”

That team is now one of, if not the largest, team in GCC’s history, with over 1,200 riders from coast to coast, consisting of nearly 80 per cent of all riders in the challenge. 

In less than two weeks, they’ve raised over $1.1 million – well over their goal of $500,000 for the entire month of August – making Team Addy the leading team in all of Canada by more than $900,000.

“(Addy) was very humble. She couldn’t believe that all that was for her. And I don't think she'll ever fully understand the magnitude of how many lives she's touched in this world,” said Jessica Hill, Addy’s mom. 

Director of special events and sponsorship for SickKids Jamie Lamont thinks the team has been so successful because of Addy’s strong character, but also because her story really resonates with people across the country. 

“They flock to it, they just want to show their support, show that the family is very much on their minds,” he said. 

Although Lamont never met Addy in person, her story and presence was well known around the SickKids hospital.

“She was strong. She was willing to advocate for herself and her fellow patients suffering from cancer,” he said. 

According to Hill, Addy was always smiling, and saw the silver lining in everything, even throughout her journey with cancer. 

“When she was told she was dying, she responded by saying 'no, I’m going to celebrate my life every day.' That spoke volumes to me, from a 14-year-old. She was quite an amazing kid," she said.

Addy also had a huge heart and was always looking for ways to give back. During her time a SickKids, she became an ambassador, which the organization describes as someone “willing and honoured to share their story for fundraising purposes.” 

She and her family organized a Family Fun Day in July on her birthday to fundraise for the SickKids Foundation. They had a goal of $14,000, since Addy was turning 14, but ended up raising over $200,000. 

They are already in the process of planning a Family Fun Day for next year because of the incredible response from the community, and Hill expects it to become an annual event. 

She said the tremendous amount of support her family have seen for Addy has been surreal. 

“It's just so powerful and emotional. Everyone has been supporting us from the start. They have held our hearts in their hands from day one, and they're continuing to do so. There's just no words to articulate what that means to us as a family,” she said. “I’m feeling the overwhelming support, and when I drop to my knees thinking (of) the loss, it just lifts me up.”