Leaside cyclist Jana Pokorna is usually the one donating the goods to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, but the 53-year-old was on the receiving end of one good turn.
After having her $1,500 Bianchi bicycle stolen June 4, a week before the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, June 13–14, Pokorna was desperate.
She had raised $21,000 for her team, the Power of the Bill, in honour of her friend Bill Wall, when she discovered just before 7 p.m. her bike was missing outside her Sutherland Drive shop, M&J Jewellery.
Unable to get assistance from the police, she sent emails to everyone she knew requesting the loan of a spoked steed at 3 a.m the following day.
“I needed help because I cannot possibly go out and buy a bike. I’m not a rich girl, so I need to borrow a bike,” she said, inside her shop, June 8.
The note got passed along to Gavin Brauer, co-founder of bike-making company KindHuman on Avenue Road, who answered Pokorna’s plea.
“We get a lot of requests from people who ask us for free bikes because they want to do [charity rides],” he said. “The difference with Jana was she had an amazing humility about her, and she’s already done her commitment and has done so much for Princess Margaret, and all she was asking for was to borrow a bike.”
Brauer then gave Pokorna a custom-built KindHuman Kampionne worth $2,500. They’ve also set up a webpage devoted to Pokorna’s cause, with a fundraising goal of $100,000 for Princess Margaret Hospital.
She said she was overwhelmed with gratitude.
“This is a phenomenal bike, and they said, ‘Okay, it’s yours for the ride’,” she said. “I was thinking he was going to lend it to me for the ride, and I go, ‘What if I scratch it?’ I was afraid.
“I told him, I would guarantee it with my credit card, and he said next Tuesday we will fit you for it with your shorts on, and we’ll talk about it then.”
Brauer felt the gift was geared for her.
“She went from whatever experience she had fighting cancer to riding 200 kilometres in six months — that is a remarkable, powerful woman, and we felt we had to recognize that,” he said.
Pokorna has been taking part in the ride since 2008, a mere six months after getting surgery to remove a uterine fibroid, and eventually her ovaries once cancer was discovered in her fallopian tubes in 2007.
Her parents, who lived in Brno, Czech Republic, both succumbed to the illness — father Jan Richter, who played hockey for the German National Team, of liver cancer and mother, Libuse Nesporova, of breast cancer.
Pokorna also escaped Czechoslovakia with her son, Tomas, and ex-husband Dusan Pokorny, a well-known mountain climber who once made a bid to summit Mt. Everest.
“My life makes me incredibly strong,” she said. “My mom and my dad told me to never give up. I wasn’t even angry, I cried that night. I didn’t cry for the bike, but more for the ride.”
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