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Lawrence Zimmering, centre, and some of the members of the Bauer Zimmering Pacesetters cycling team in the June 9-10 Ride to Conquer Cancer, from Toronto to Niagara Falls.

The Donor: Lawrence Zimmering

The Gift: $2.6-million and climbing

The Cause: Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital

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The Reason: To finance research into prostate cancer

When Lawrence Zimmering was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007, it wasn't a complete surprise.

His family had a history of cancer and he had lost his mother, father and some cousins to the disease. Within weeks of being diagnosed, he had an operation at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital. A few months later, doctors said he was cancer-free.

He was eager to do something in return and his doctor, Neil Flesher, had a suggestion. He wondered if Mr. Zimmering wanted to raise money for a genitourinary biobank, a central repository of blood and urine samples donated by patients which is used a biomarkers to help researchers validate their work.

Mr. Zimmering agreed and went to work on a fundraising idea.

Around the same time, the hospital was organizing a fundraising event called the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a two-day cycling trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls. He had always been an avid cyclist and he quickly put together a team with his friend, cycling legend Steve Bauer.

"My idea was to form a perpetuating fundraising machine directed at very specific projects," recalled Mr. Zimmering who runs a financing company called Autobank.

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Dozens of riders joined the Bauer Zimmering Pacesetters and the team now includes more than 90 participants.

They have ridden in all five charity rides so far and raised $2.6-million in total for the biobank. "Everyone does it with an incredible spirit," Mr. Zimmering, 61, said of the team, noting that members come from all walks of life.

The group is already planning for next year's ride and it is considering raising money for other causes. "Who could have predicted that we would create this machine?" he said. "It's just unbelievable, as is the openness that comes along with it. Because in fundraising the dollars are important, but the awareness is also important."

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