The crowds are wild. The sky brims blue, and Milan’s rigid, snow-capped mountains are reduced to mere blurs as bicyclist Ryder Hesjedal zooms over the finish line of Giro d’Italia, becoming the first Canadian to ever win the prestigious race.
Across the pond, a pursuit is pulling Vaughan’s citizens to the streets. The air buzzes with excitement as jersey-clad riders make their way to Villa Charities’ fourth annual Giro cycling event. While the crowds aren’t in the millions, and the prize isn’t a swirling golden trophy, community members beam with generous hearts.
Like Hesjedal, it was Nick Sanci’s first time reaching the finish line, and like his fellow Canadian champion, Sanci’s race began long before May 27. Sanci, who belongs to Team Rosehaven, began collecting donations weeks prior to hitting the track, striving to meet
his $15, 000 goal. Today, Sanci and his fellow participants celebrate their victory with a neighbourly version of Giro d’Italia – a symbol that remarkable goals can be reached with restless passion and some body-crunching effort.
Offering an invigorating day with a zap of culture, Giro 2012 featured Italian-themed “Mangia” rest stations, complimentary refreshments and, of course, the Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) awarded to the top fundraiser. “One of the great things about this ride is that it’s inspired by an Italian event,” says Silvio Guglietti, co-chair of Giro 2012. “We have stops with espresso, gelato, power bars – [it’s] a fun, relaxed ride.”
The difference between the original Giro d’Italia and its humble relative rests at its core: Rather than the promise of a hefty prize, it’s a community passion that keeps Vaughan riders putting one pedal in front of the other. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” says Anne Simone, executive director of Villa Charities Foundation.
Sanci raised over $16, 000, beating his own goal by over a thousand dollars. With his efforts earning nearly as much as the other nine top fundraisers combined, Sanci’s incredible perseverance prized him with Giro 2012’s Pink Jersey.
A net total of over $100,000 was raised for the various organizations Villa Charities houses. These include include Villa Colombo and Villa Colombo Vaughan Di Poce Centre, Vita Community Living Services and Mens Sana Families for Mental Health, Columbus Centre with its athletic and cultural programs, and its cluster of homes providing independent and assisted care services to seniors and adults with intellectual disabilities.
While Giro 2012 raised funds and the heart rates of citizens, its successful finish was sweetened when Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua presented Villa Charities with $10,000, a donation from proceeds raised at the 2011 Mayor’s Gala. “The City of Vaughan is very happy to be hosting this incredible manifestation of the spirit of generosity here in our community,” says the mayor, honorary chair of this year’s event. “To help seniors is such a fantastic cause; their generation has given so much to the community, so much to our country.”