A band of 11 cyclists are gearing up for a 500-kilometre ride from Mount Kosciuszko to Wollongong to fund research into an incurable childhood brain cancer and honour the life of a little girl who lost her life to the disease.
Dr B.J. and Heather So's five-year-old daughter Emily died in May 2022, seven months after she was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a tumour that forms in the brain stem.
On Sunday, October 15 the 'Ride for Em' team - made up of Dr So, family and friends - will embark on a six-day ride starting from Thredbo.
They are raising money for a clinical trial called Levi's Catch, which is investigating the use of a treatment known as CAR-T cell therapy to target DIPG - the treatment for which has not changed in 50 years.
"Really excited, actually," Dr So said about his feelings ahead of the ride.
"It's been a lot of preparation to get to this point now, a lot of people put in a lot of effort into making this event happen."
Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park confirmed on Wednesday that the state government would give $25,000 to the Children's Cancer Institute - one of the partners in Levi's Catch - for research into DIPG.
Dr and Mrs So met with Mr Park in August to share their story and how he could support their efforts.
"After meeting with the team from 'Ride for Em' I'd like to commend them for their passion and dedication to supporting patients living with DIPG and their families," Mr Park said.
"The ride is a fantastic initiative, and I wish everyone taking part on Sunday all the best."
Dr So said training for the ride had gone "really, really well", involving at least one long ride each week, typically up and down Mount Keira.
He said the weather forecast for Thredbo on the first day of the ride was cold and snowy, which in itself did not worry him - it was the prospect of ice on the road that was concerning.
But still, Dr So said, "it's going to be fun".
So far the Ride for Em 2023 has raised over $50,100 from hundreds of supporters, whom Dr So wants to thank.
"It's really encouraging and humbling and special to see how many people have given, and how much they've given," he said.
The Ride for Em team are due to cross the finish line in front of the Illawarra Brewery (in the WIN Entertainment Centre) at 4pm on Friday, October 20 - and anyone is invited to attend and cheer them on.
But before they reach that point, the cyclists will make a small detour in memory of Emily.
"Emily loved lighthouses, and we wanted to pay tribute to her by visiting our local lighthouses on the way to the brewery," Dr So said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.rideforem.org.
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