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Coco Rocha in Barrie, for National Kids Cancer Ride

Miriam King
Coco Rocha in Barrie, for National Kids Cancer Ride

Coco Rocha in Barrie, for National Kids Cancer Ride

Canadian Supermodel Coco Rocha and 20 Elite models were in Barrie on Sunday night, for a fundraising fashion show at The Roxx.

Despite the glitz and glamour, the focus was on the cause, raising funds for paediatric cancer - and on an 11 year old girl.

Eleven-year-old Erika Campbell is Coco Rocha's little cousin, and an ambassador for the Coast to Coast against Cancer Foundation. She came up with the idea of a fashion show as a fundraiser for her dad's firefighting colleague and long-time friend, Jim Ritchie, who will be cycling across Canada as one of 36 riders in the Foundation's 2nd annual Sears National Kids Cancer Ride, June 13-24.

Coco and Erika get together whenever the super model is in the Barrie area. "I just asked her if she'd like to be in a fashion show for a great cause," says the Algonquin Ridge Elementary School student, "and she didn't even hesitate. She said yes."

"I think it's amazing that an 11 year old girl, who could be out of school, just thinking about playing... is doing something for kids she doesn't even know and will never meet," says Rocha. "I've done charity work in the past, but it's sometimes a little hard to fit something in." In this case - with Erika, her mom Linda Campbell, and Elite Model Management agent Matti Gidilevich all working together on the fundraiser - it was easy to make the time.

Jeff Rushton, founder and chair of Coast to Coast against Cancer Foundation, was in Barrie for the show. In 2002, Rushton and a friend cycled across the U.S., dedicating every 4 hours in honor or in memory of a person with cancer, inviting the public to nominate their loved ones. The letters were an eye-opener.

Rushton realized for the first time that "kids' cancer was huge" - and that there was no charity dedicated to paediatric cancer. He rode across Canada in 2003 with 5 other cyclists and raised $500,000 for childhood cancers, then launched the 4-day Tour for Kids in 2004. Three years ago, the decision was made to establish the Coast to Coast against Cancer Foundation.

"Now we're working with all charities," he says. "We really are committed to making a sustainable long-term impact on the survivor rates of children living with cancer" - because, when you meet the families, he says, "you see how devastating it is."

Foundation Board Member, Dr. Steven Sokolowski adds, "More children die of childhood cancers than all the other diseases combined."

Coast to Coast against Cancer is unique, in that every cent raised - "100%" - goes to the designated charities. All the costs of the Foundation and the Rides are covered through sponsorship, all of the work done by volunteers, and the cause brings together supporters from a wide range of backgrounds. "People you would not expect to get together - fashion models, a guy who owns a bar (former Barrie Mayor, Rob Hamilton), and a bunch of crazy guys who are riding across the Country," says Dr. Sokolowski.

Jim Ritchie, one of those "crazy guys" participating in the 7,000 km. relay, has a Bradford connection. Doug Armstrong, Bradford resident, is a colleague on the Toronto Fire Service, and will be travelling with Ritchie to provide technical support - and Ritchie will be riding in memory of Armstrong's daughter, Kristin Coombes.

Kristin, a BDHS student, lost her battle with non-sun-related melanoma at the age of 15.

To sponsor Jim Ritchie in his ride, or to cycle a section of the route with the national riders, visit www .searsnationalkidscancerride.com To sponsor, click on Donate, then go to Pledge a National Rider.