Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff Stéphane Pilon, of Red Deer, shown here with his tandem kayak, and his partner Mark Ma, will be paddling from Whitehorse to Dawson City in the Yukon River Quest June 28 to July 1. The kayak will be on display at the Red Deer south Canadian Tire store June 15-20, where people can sign the kayak and make a donation to the Terry Fox Foundation.

Red Deer kayaker racing for charity

Stéphane Pilon and partner tackling the Yukon River Quest later this month in tandem kayak

Red Deer kayaker Stéphane Pilon and his Hong Kong paddling partner Mark Ma will represent many when they tackle a 715-km Yukon River race later this month.

Scrawled on their 22-foot tandem kayak will be the names of cancer survivors, current battlers and victims.

Their kayak will become a fitting tribute to the Terry Fox Foundation, the charity Pilon and Ma are paddling for in the Yukon River Quest, which runs June 28 to July 2.

Nearly 100 paddlers are signed up for the punishing race from Whitehorse to Dawson City, which draws canoeiests, kayakers and paddleboarders from as far as New Zealand and Togo.

“It’s a crazy race,” said Pilon, who has been preparing with 10-km runs and exhausting kayak workouts fighting Red Deer River’s swift spring current.

Paddlers are required to take a single seven-hour sleep break during the race’s three days, but other than that they will be paddling day and night —or least what passes for night this time of year in the Yukon.

“They call the race “Chasing the Midnight Sun,” he said.

“It doesn’t really get dark. At this point, the sun might just be hiding on the horizon but doesn’t truly disappear.

“Dusk and dawn kind of dance together.”

Pilon and Ma, his brother-in-law and a Hong Kong firefighter, must carry all of their own supplies, including food.

They know it’s going to be gruelling. “I mean you’re fighting blisters, and there can be all types of weather there.”

Paddlers compete in categories and Pilon said he’s not sure what to expect given the veterans and other hard-core paddlers he will be up against in tandem kayaks.

“For us, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s our first round at it, we just want to finish the race. So we’ll be pacing ourselves.”

Depending on how things go, they might upgrade that goal to winning.

“If we’re at the halfway mark, and we’re in good standings, we might just go for it.”

Terry Fox’s achievement remains an inspiration, he said. The race will start the same day in 1981 that Fox died after running 5,373 kilometres and becoming a national hero.

Pilon, general manager at the south-end Canadian Tire, has already raised $1,000 and will be collecting much more as race day gets closer.

Those who want to add the name of someone who has been touched by cancer can sign his kayak at the store at 2510 50th Ave. from Thursday until Tuesday. Donations can be made at the store or go to and look for Yukon River Quest.

Just Posted

Driver crashes into Red Deer business while fleeing police

A car smashed through a Red Deer business’ front window while fleeing… Continue reading

Police informer talks about his role in Castor undercover sting

Jason Klaus and Joshua Frank were convicted of triple murders last month

City of Red Deer invites residents to Let’s Talk

Interactive public forum to be held April 7

Lessons in altruism learned by Red Deer students

St. Francis of Assisi School launches community foundation project

Sylvan Lake council approves fire pits and mobile stage

Large fire pits for group gatherings will be located on pier next winter

Sutter Fund Chiefs ready to host Midget AAA Female Provincials

The second half of the season did not go as planned for… Continue reading

Wickenheiser says strengthening Olympic hockey bridge behind North Korea trip

CALGARY — Hayley Wickenheiser was conflicted about the unified Korean women’s hockey… Continue reading

Watch: Volcanic thunder is real, and this is what it sounds like

Behold, the rumble of volcanic thunder. No, this is not the sound… Continue reading

Cosmetics giant L’Oreal buys Toronto augmented reality startup ModiFace

TORONTO — When University of Toronto engineering professor Parham Aarabi first began… Continue reading

Report: ESPN president resigned over cocaine extortion plot

LOS ANGELES — The former president of ESPN said he resigned from… Continue reading

Conductor Levine, ousted after sex abuse inquiry, sues Met

NEW YORK — Conductor James Levine sued the Metropolitan Opera on Thursday… Continue reading

Five things about ‘Fortnite,’ the video game Drake shared with his fans

Drake’s a fan, as is Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, along… Continue reading

Former Devils forward Kovalchuk aiming for NHL return after five years away

MOSCOW — Former NHL forward Ilya Kovalchuk says he wants to return… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month