Dan Jackson would love another ride on the Big Bike.
The 108 Mile resident has been a fixture on the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s big rig since 2012, helping to raise $16,900 annually. Last year, he had plans to “go big” with a goal of topping $20,000 but was stalled in his fundraising efforts after COVID-19 put the brakes on big gatherings.
“Our community is so supportive, absolutely amazing,” Jackson, 71, said, noting in the early days, there would be four teams competing against each other in 100 Mile House – from forestry workers to nurses. “To take the bike and go all the way along Birch and then come down 97, there’s nothing like it. It was a good feeling.”
Jackson’s involvement in the Heart and Stroke Foundation followed a fateful trip to the hospital at Christmas time in 2011. He was building a luge ramp in his backyard when he found himself winded walking up the hill. A short time later, as he put out signs for the 108 Community, he could barely make it to the intersection outside the elementary school and knew something was wrong.
His son urged him to go to the emergency ward. Thirteen hours later, Jackson was in a hospital bed in Kelowna. His heart was not only beating at 35 beats per minute but it was extremely slow.
“It was a shock even to the nurses when I did get to Kelowna, that I was walking around,” he said.
Jackson was fitted with a pacemaker. “Basically one in 10 could have a pacemaker. I found that out in hospital,” Jackson said. “I’m so active that it didn’t affect me until I started walking up the hill.”
Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of hospitalization and the second and third leading causes of death in Canada. They are the biggest driver of prescription drug use and a leading cause of disability. Together, with vascular cognitive impairment, they cost the Canadian economy more than $24.8 billion every year.
“You’ve got to pay attention to your body. If something isn’t right make sure you get it checked out,” Jackson said. “If you don’t pay attention and ignore it, it can kill you.”
The Big Bike, which carries 29 people, had been a huge fundraiser in the 100 Mile community, Jackson said, but he doubts it will be back.
A statement on the organization’s website read: “In this difficult and challenging time, we must act to take care of each other and our community. The health and safety of you, your family, your colleagues and our communities are the number one priority for all of us at Heart & Stroke. As such, we have made the decision to not host any Big Bike events for the foreseeable future.”
“They’re going to have to come with a new way to raise funds,” Jackson said.
In the meantime, Jackson said he will focus his efforts on other charitable events, especially in the 108 community where he has lived for the past 15 years. Any funds he would have personally given to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, he said, will now go to the 100 Mile District Hospital or South Cariboo Health Foundation, noting he can’t say enough about the care he received from health officials here as well as in Kelowna.
“This hospital and our doctors … everyone is absolutely amazing,” he said. “I’m just so thankful because let’s face it, the last couple of years have been a little tough.”
Jackson said volunteering is in his blood. “I’ve just done it. It’s something our family makeup,” he said. “If somebody needs me I’m there.”