Team KPMG is passionate about the Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer. Through the Tour, Employees at KPMG have raised over $ 827,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in the last 12 years. Team KPMG started small with only a handful of riders, and with the support of dedicated captains and members, the team has grown substantially to well over 50 people. Today, Team KPMG is led by co-captains Chris Marra and Curtis Lester.
Chris Marra is an Enterprise Partner at KPMG in Calgary. The father of two (and one on the way) is originally from Victoria, BC but considers Calgary home now. His first introduction to the Enbridge Tour Alberta for Cancer (formerly known as the Alberta Ride to Conquer cancer) was in 2009 when he participated in the BC Ride to Conquer cancer. A couple of years after moving to Calgary, Chris learned about how involved KPMG Alberta is in the Tour and decided to join a couple of friends and participate in his first Alberta ride in 2011.
“I trained for the Tour but didn’t realize how hard it was to cycle in the Prairies. Everyone thinks the Prairies is flat. It is not flat. I remember the 2011 Ride, and it was a beautiful Saturday, unbelievably gorgeous. However, the next day we woke up to a torrential downpour, and I was suffocating for 90 kilometres because I couldn’t breathe in the rain, but soon after, it cleared up and got better. That was my first Alberta ride, and I have done every other Tour since then,” says Chris.
This year will be his eighth time participating in the Tour. He has been the team KPMG captain for the last three years and is excited to carry forward the foundation set by former members. For Curtis Lester, co-captain of Team KPMG and the KPMG Tax Practice leader in Calgary, this will be his fifth year participating.
Curtis finds the inspiration and motivation to take on the cycling challenge simply because he is part of such an important cause. “Cancer has been around my entire lifetime, and I have seen far too many leave us too soon due to this disease. With our support, there have been incredible advancements in cancer research and treatment of patients. I would love to see a cure for cancer in my lifetime. The movement of the people and strength in numbers is what keeps me coming back. It’s nice to see what we can accomplish when we work together for a common goal,” he says.
A personal connection to cancer is also what motivated Chris year after year. His father and some of his friends have been affected by cancer. More recently, his mother-in-law was re-diagnosed with cancer in 2020.
“I picture myself in their shoes, and it reinforces the purpose for me. The Tour represents the ability to connect with what those facing cancer are going through and validate their struggle. It symbolizes that we are there to support them in whatever way we can, and that’s why I have always really connected with it,” he says.
Curtis will be taking part in the Tour Alberta this year in Vancouver, as he helps his daughter move to university. He will be joined by his 14 year old son, Julian, who has been riding with him for four years now and likes to challenge dad to keep up.
Gearing up for the Tour
When asked if he has any tips for first-time participants, Curtis notes the importance of stretching before and after cycling. “It makes a massive difference for recovery. Basic bike maintenance is also key (e.g. bike is in good working order, tires are aired up, chain is lubed, and the frame is nice and shiny). Lastly, safety first and try to stay off of busy roads or at least avoid rush hour. Helmets and front and taillights are essential in my view,” he says.
Chris suggests that if people want to experiment for the first time and maximize the number of kilometres they cover, they should consider riding in the hills as much as they can. In Calgary, he suggests the Northwest area, “The Bears paw and Cochrane area have plenty of excellent routes that beginners can cycle on which will allow you to get acquainted with the foothills of the city,” he says.
Starting a Team
For those thinking of starting a team for the Tour, Chris advises to start small and build from there.
“It helps to start with one or two more people and getting the word out. If you are looking to inspire your family, friends or colleagues to join your team, it’s important to highlight that this is a Tour, not a race. I think everybody thinks that it’s a race, but it’s not. It is about connecting with the journey that other people are on and helping support people with cancer and their families by fundraising,” notes Chris.
Chris believes that Team KPMG’s inclusivity played a big part in the growth of their team over the years.
“Here at KPMG, we haven’t limited the team to just our friends, family, colleagues, or our clients. We have always brought other people in who share and understand what the purpose of the Tour is. You don’t just have to be an employee of KPMG to be part of the team,” he says.
On August 28th, Team KPMG plans to carry out a virtual experiment and divide the sub-teams into multiple courses throughout Calgary. They are diligent about their team members and want them to make it a personalized experience based on their fitness levels. Their main goal is to focus on getting out there and bring people together rather than placing importance on how many kilometres they cover.
“We plan to make the Tour accessible for everyone based on their fitness abilities. This year is a great opportunity to get out and test that,” notes Chris.
For smaller teams, he suggests collaborating with the big teams when it comes to training:
“If you are a small team, we are happy to have you come out and train with us at any point in time. As teams, we are always there to support and help people along the way,” says Chris.
“We are just excited to get out there and support those who are going through cancer because their journey has never stopped. I’m also excited about the new brand and wearing the new jersey this year,” notes Chris.
Chris signs off on a hopeful note while reinstating the value of donating. “From a donor’s perspective, the best way to do it is to get out and support people. You never know when you’re going to find yourself in need. Who knows how that donation might one day impact you or a family member? Every little bit helps. So please donate as much as you can to the cause or any team you would like to support.”