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Claude Des Rosiers (left) and Robert Merkley (right). Claude Des Rosiers and Robert Merkley in Ottawa who launched Ride the Rideau, a fundraiser for Ottawa Hospital which involves a 100-kilometre bike ride. The event has raised more than $5-million since it started three years ago.

The Gift: Launching Ride the Rideau

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The Cause: The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The Reason: To raise money for cancer research

A few years ago Ottawa businessman Robert Merkley joined a friend for the Ride to Conquer Cancer in Toronto and raised $80,000.

"When we crossed the finish line in Niagara Falls we said we really need to do this for Ottawa," recalled Mr. Merkley, chief executive of construction firm Merkley Supply Inc.

Mr. Merkley took his idea to local businessman Claude Des Rosiers, general manager of Boone Plumbing and Heating, who is on the board of the Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

Together they mapped out Ride the Rideau, a 100-kilometre fundraising event for the hospital. The first ride was three years ago and the pair hoped to raise $500,000. Instead, the event attracted 600 people and raised more than $900,000.

It has grown ever since, raising $4.4-million in total so far. About 800 people have signed up for this year's ride, on Sept. 7, and the foundation is hoping to raise $2-million.

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Mr. Merkley will certainly be out there pushing for donations. "I'm a bit of a dog with a bone," he said. "I have no qualms of asking people for money when it comes to cancer."

Mr. Des Rosiers, who like Mr. Merkley has been involved in several other charities around Ottawa, said the ride has become popular because the hospital is so crucial to the community. He hopes the ride will grow to 1,000 riders.

"We want to make sure it continues on for many, many years to come," he said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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