Novartis ‘Ride for Life’ goes virtual to raise funds for cancer research

Jocelyne Aubry of Fabreville was an organizer and participant this year

For the past 15 years, Canadian employees of the pharmaceutical company Novartis have conducted a cancer research fundraising bike ride from Toronto to Dorval called the Ride for Life.

Over that time they have raised more than $1.2 million for the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. One of the organizers and regular participants for the past several years has been Jocelyne Aubry, who lives in the Laval district of Fabreville.

Reinventing themselves

This year’s Ride for Life took place from August 16 to 23. However, as with so many things, COVID-19 made the 2020 version of the event impossible in its traditional format. But Aubry and other Novartis employees were determined to develop a new format so they could meet their objectives while staying safely in their own communities.

Jocelyne Aubry of Fabreville in Laval and Julie Richard of Dorval in Montreal are seen here during one of the days they spent this summer going from Cornwall to Montreal logging kilometres on their bicycles for the 2020 Novartis Ride for Life.

They not only succeeded, but also attracted a record number of colleagues from across Canada to participate – 63 in all – including Christian Macher, the company president. The Novartis cyclists were out riding in their home communities to log 3 kms for every dollar they collected in cancer research donations from themselves, family and friends.

In total, it is expected the riders will have completed about 15,000 km, with some clocking 600 km during the week – the same distance they would have done from Toronto to Montreal.

Clocking kilometres

Jocelyne Aubry was clocking her mileage on different rides from her home during the week, but started early by riding with another colleague, Julie Richard of Dorval, to Cornwall in eastern Ontario, staying overnight and returning the following day. She was expecting to knock off about 250 km that way.

Every year, Ride for Life riders wear a distinctive cycling jersey to identify them while on the road. This year’s jersey highlighted that even in a pandemic, Novartis was still making their vital cancer research fundraising happen by sporting the slogan, “When distance tries to divide us, we make it unite us!”

New format for objectives

While the pandemic made the long-distance ride impossible in 2020, the need for cancer research funding hasn’t diminished. As such, everyone at Novartis was determined to meet their objectives while staying safely in their own communities.

“We committed to this very important cause many years ago and Novartis associates are determined to continue to help our communities in spite of the current situation,” said Christian Macher, Novartis Canada president, who has participated in past years and was among the virtual ride participants in 2020.

“While I will miss the camaraderie of the ride, I am very proud of the creative solution Ride for Life organizers came up with for the ride to take place,” he added. “Reimagining the way we do things to help patients is what defines us.”

A larger initiative

The Ride for Life was started by Novartis employees in 2005 to go beyond their work at the company helping to fight cancer. Each year, many of those riding have strong personal connections to breast cancer.

The Ride for Life is part of a bigger initiative that involves employees from across the country who are actively engaged in a broad range of fundraising events and awareness-raising activities throughout the year.

“We applaud the dedication of the Novartis team and are truly grateful they found an innovative way to continue to generate funds for our cancer research efforts, despite the pandemic,” said Karine-Iseult Ippersiel, CEO of the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation.

Efforts are appreciated

“The Ride for Life has been a significant contributor to our efforts for many years but this year, more than ever, we need and appreciate the support. It’s great to see Novartis employees rallying together to help the community.”

The Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation is the only philanthropic organization whose research investments in the fight against breast cancer are exclusively made in Quebec. Funds raised by the foundation are also invested to support innovation, awareness, and education. For more information, visit