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Todd McDonald, front, with participant Sean LeMoine, organizes mammoth bike trips and swims to raise money for cancer charities.TREVOR BLOCK/The Globe and Mail

The Donor: Todd McDonald

The Gift: Creating Give to Live

The Reason: To raise money for cancer research

When Todd McDonald met Tony Griffin seven years ago in Halifax, he couldn't believe the trip Mr. Griffin planned to take.

Mr. Griffin, an Irishman studying at Dalhousie University, had just lost his father to cancer and he decided to cycle across Canada to raise money for cancer research. He had lots of passion but no bike, no support staff and no clue as to how difficult the journey would be.

"He was a hard guy not to attach yourself to," Mr. McDonald recalled from his office in Halifax. "I said, 'Geez I've got to help you out. You don't know what you are doing and I don't either, but two people are better than one.'"

With Mr. McDonald's help, Mr. Griffin completed the trip in four months and raised about $600,000.

The journey prompted Mr. McDonald to start Give to Live, a charity that organizes mammoth bike trips and swims to raise money for various cancer charities. The annual cycling excursions have included rides to Austin, Tex., from Halifax and Vancouver.

This year's trip, which starts Sept. 14, is from Banff, Alta., to Boulder, Colo. A few years ago, they added an annual swim in August from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, which takes about seven hours.

Mr. McDonald said the charity's objective is to push people to do something extraordinary and raise money for a good cause. So far, the foundation has donated about $2-million in total to several cancer-related charities.

Working with Mr. Griffin and starting the charity have helped Mr. McDonald overcome many difficulties in his own life, he added, including alcoholism, drug use and a broken marriage. "For me, it has been just an enormous gift," he said.