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Todd McDonald and Ashley Ward host three annual events, a swim, bike ride and winter hike, to raise money for various charities.


The organizers: Todd McDonald and Ashley Ward

The pitch: Creating Give to Live

Todd McDonald and Ashley Ward were just about to start a business in Halifax in 2007 when they met a young athlete from Ireland who asked for their help.

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Tony Griffin, an all-star hurler, had walked away from his sport at the age of 26 and decided to bike across Canada to raise money for cancer research. Mr. Griffin had just lost his father to asbestos-linked cancer, but he’d never cycled before or knew much about Canada.

Mr. McDonald and Ms. Ward, who are now married, couldn’t donate any money because their resources had been stretched to start the company, called Energy Atlantica. Instead they offered logistical support and they ended up spending months helping Mr. Griffin get through the journey. He made it and raised more than $1-million. The couple were so impressed with his effort that they took up cycling and biked across Ireland.

“We kind of got the bug from that day forward,” Mr. McDonald recalled from the family’s summer home in Cape Breton.

Mr. McDonald and Ms. Ward eventually created Give to Live, an annual series of cycling, swimming and hiking events that raise money for several charities including the Lawrencetown Education Centre for at-risk youth, Brigadoon Village for chronically ill children and cancer research projects at Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation.

The Big Ride has included cycling trips from Halifax to Austin, Tex., across the Alps in Europe, along Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail and around Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. The Big Swim goes from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island while the Big Chill involves a snowshoe trek in February covering up to 30 kilometres.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the couple to cancel some events this summer, but they’ve organized some online programs and they’re planning a new hike in October.

So far Give to Live has raised around $3.3-million in total. “It’s been awesome,” said Ms. Ward, who added that company staff have been active participants. “It’s been so satisfying and fulfilling. There’s a great family feeling to it.”

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