After six gruelling days and almost 500 kilometres, 10 cyclists have made a victorious return to Wollongong, raising over $115,000 for children's brain cancer research in the name of little Emily So.
The Ride for Em cyclists - including Emily's dad B.J., her aunt Clare Barnes and her uncle Matthew Barnes - were greeted on Friday afternoon by dozens of family, friends and supporters who cheered them on and showered them in yellow confetti.
The money they have helped raise will fund a clinical trial of a treatment for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), an incurable cancer that grows in the brain stem.
With contributions from the community, they raised $115,494 by Friday afternoon, smashing their initial target of $100,000 and even beating their revised goal of $110,000.
Emily lost her life to DIPG in May 2022 at the age of five, just seven months after diagnosis.
For her parents, Dr B.J. and Heather So, the ride was not only a fundraiser but a way to honour the life of their daughter, a creative girl who loved elephants and was shy but not afraid to voice her opinion to her family.
The Ride for Em cyclists set off from Mount Kosciuszko on Sunday, October 15 and arrived in Wollongong relatively unscathed, despite facing some ferocious weather that included a lashing from hail and even a snowstorm.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done," Ms Barnes said of the ride.
For Dr So, arriving home after such an experience felt "surreal".
"It's been very special to see so many people out her to support," Dr So said.
He gave thanks to everybody who had helped them along the way, saying the real heroes were not the riders but the people who gave so generously to help them raise so much money.
After a short presentation ceremony during which each rider was given a medal, Dr So spoke of his gratitude to everyone involved: from the riders themselves to the people who did all the behind-the-scenes logistics.
Mrs So said it was wonderful that the ride had provided an opportunity to bring people together, noting a man they did not know had come along on Friday to show his support because he'd lost his grandson to DIPG.
"I think the most important thing to us is connection to our community," she said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.rideforem.org.
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