The family of a Winnipeg man killed while cycling in the U.S. to raise money for his sick granddaughter, and the hospital caring for her, say they are now planning a memorial ride in his honour.
Jean-Pierre “JP” Petit, 53, died June 13 after being hit by a truck on a highway in South Dakota.
Petit left Winnipeg on June 4, planning to ride his bike to Hot Springs in the Black Hills of South Dakota, to raise money to help pay for the medication and care needed for his three-year-old granddaughter, Éveline, who was born with renal failure and underwent a kidney transplant in March.
Petit’s son, Marquis, says his dad reached the campaign’s goal, bringing in $20,000, just before his death.
“He always told me ‘I’m never going to understand or be able to be in Éveline’s shoes, so I want to push myself harder than ever,” Marquis says of his dad’s plans to cycle 1,349 kilometers to a fountain of natural spring water called the Kidney Springs, in South Dakota.
“He was always a selfless, humble person who was always there to help out anybody.”
Marquis, who donated his kidney to his daughter, said his dad quietly began planning out the fundraiser about a year ago before telling family members about the idea just after Christmas.
Petit was an experienced endurance runner, with marathons and ultra marathons under his belt, and Marquis said his dad trained hard to be ready to cycle 100 kilometres a day for the fundraiser.
Not even a diagnosis of COVID-19 at the end of April slowed him down, Marquis said.
“The support of the family and the support of the community that were behind him just kept him going,” he said.
“He felt great and he was excited and everything was going good.”
But tragedy struck just a few days into the trip.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol say Petit was riding on the solid white line, also known as the fog line, on the shoulder of Interstate 29, when he was hit from behind by a cargo truck June 9.
He died a few days later at a hospital in Sioux Falls. Charges are pending against the 65-year-old man who was driving the truck, officials have said.
Marquis says he and his brothers and sister, and his dad’s siblings, were able to travel to South Dakota to join his mom and be by his dad’s side.
In a bittersweet twist, he says his dad was able to donate both his kidneys and his liver after his death.
“He was able to give the gift of life to three other people through this tragedy,” Marquis said.
Marquis says donations have continued to pour in since his dad’s death, with more than $31,000 raised as of late last week. He says his dad would have been “blown away” by the generosity.
“We have had donations come from as far as Italy,” Marquis said.
“We’ve said it several times, you know, if dad knew the outcome, he would probably still have done the ride.”
Some of the money raised will be used to help care for Éveline and the rest will be donated to the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Marquis said.
In a post on the fundraiser’s website, Petit wrote that he had hoped the event would become an annual event “for a cause so close to our hearts.”
Marquis said the family is now working to make that happen, with plans to hold a memorial ride in the future.
“It’s going to take a while to get everything organized. But we’re hopefully going to do a memorial ride, more local, not as big, but something to honor his legacy and to keep helping the hospital that’s been helping our family,” Marquis said.
“We’re going to be honoring him as much as we can for everything he’s done for our family.”
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