Riding for a Reason

Twenty-six-year-old James John set off an epic adventure around Australia in early 2017 to raise awareness and much-needed funds for children with cancer.

In March 2017, I set off from my small hometown of Paringa, South Australia, on a 19,000km motorcycle ‘Eyes Open Ride’ journey around Australia.

I set out to complete my ride in memory of my late father, Paul John.

My dad passed away from cancer on 17 May 2015 at the age of 54. In the months after his death, a childhood friend of his, Steven, wrote a letter to my family sharing stories of growing up with dad. In their retirement, Steven and dad had planned to ride their motorcycles around Australia.

I was inspired reading Steven’s letter and decided that I would complete this journey that dad never could.

When dad was in hospital, we often discussed the tragedy of childhood cancer.

Dad thought he had had a good innings. The true tragedy in his (and certainly my) view is cancer in children. When a child goes to hospital, the whole family goes to hospital. It must be a particularly scary time and, visiting children’s hospitals right around our country, this was driven home to me.

And that’s why I decided I would also fundraise for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

I finished work in late 2016, got my motorcycle licence (yes, this was my first time riding a motorbike on the open road, solo…) and started planning my ride.

After 85 days and just over 19,000kms on the road, I finished my ride.

The places I saw and things I experienced were truly special.

From the vastness of the Nullarbor, the beauty of the west coast (swimming with the whale sharks in Exmouth was a highlight), to the remote top end with its quirky pubs and characters, the frantic pace of the east coast, and the chilly stretches in Tasmania, I feel privileged to have seen so much of our country.

I set an ambitious target to raise $50,000 in public donations for the Children’s Cancer Foundation and was thrilled to exceed this target and raise $57,000.

I created a website, blog, Facebook, Instagram and even a Twitter page (though I never really got the hang of that one). 

It was my aim to not only fundraise, but spread awareness of childhood cancer, so I wanted to keep in touch with as many people across as many platforms as I could.

I also stopped at literally hundreds of pubs and roadhouses as I traversed across the country and talked to many locals – a significant sum was raised this way. 

My advice to anyone considering fundraising, is be courageous and step out of your comfort zone – talk to strangers, share your journey and why you are doing what you are doing.

I am generally quite introverted and enjoy my solitude. However, I never met an unfriendly face or someone not supportive of what I was doing once we got talking – it is definitely worth jumping in with both feet and getting your cause out there any way that you can.

I also personally donated $50,000 to children’s hospitals and paediatric wards across the country. This was my way of honouring my father’s memory. At each hospital I visited, I was inspired by the many incredible children, families and staff that I met. 

I believe strongly in the motto “if you can, you should”, when it comes to helping others, particularly if you have the means and capacity. There are so many ways you can help – be it financially, through spreading awareness, or even sending kind words and thoughts to families you know are going through a tough time.

The Children’s Cancer Foundation has been amazing in their support of me throughout my journey and I would encourage anyone to think big, small, or somewhere in between and consider supporting this wonderful Foundation.

I am confident that you will experience the same wonderful support and appreciation I have throughout my journey, and learn a lot about yourself and the joys of giving in the process.

All in all, the Eyes Open Ride pledged $107,000 to help ill children around Australia – it’s a journey that I am proud of and think my dad would have been too.

Has James inspired you? Contact us to discuss fundraising for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

James on his motorbike