Cash, Sweat & Tears Award 2016 Winner: Peter Istvan

Peter Istvan: Pedaling for Parkinsons Research

peter-istvanPeter Istvan, founder and organizer of Pedaling for Parkinson’s — an annual bike ride that has raised more than $700,000 for the charity Parkinson Canada — is the winner of the 2016 Cash, Sweat & Tears Canada Award.

Istvan started Pedaling for Parkinson’s six years ago in rural Parry Sound, Ontario, with the goal of using his love of cycling to raise some money to fight Parkinson’s disease.

During the first event, 18 riders came together to raise $18,000.

But he didn’t stop there.


Each year, Istvan — along with a volunteer team of family and friends — have been working to grow the ride and raise more money. And the event has mushroomed into a massive community event. This July, 250 riders took part in the 3-day event, raising $200,000 for Parkinson Canada.

“Peter’s commitment and vision are inspiring — and they demonstrate the amazing power that passionate people can use to help nonprofits raise money and achieve their missions,” said David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada. “He has helped create an event that brings together his small town each summer to make a difference. In doing so, he is helping to transform the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease.”

Pedaling for Parkinson’s is part of a growing trend in peer-to-peer fundraising — the explosion in the number of independent, do-it-yourself fundraising campaigns that are organized by individuals, rather than by nonprofits.

Parkinson Canada provides support for the event, but Istvan, a volunteer, does most of the heavy lifting — managing logistics, recruiting riders and volunteers, soliciting sponsors, and collecting donations.

“Peter, and the whole team behind Pedaling for Parkinson’s, are a joy to work with,” said Jon Collins, associate director of events and partnerships for Parkinson Canada. “With dauntless energy, strength of spirit and compassion, Peter Istvan has build a community around a once-a-year bike ride in Parry Sound. That engaged community has been a powerful engine of support of our mission.”

While many charities organize large-scale fundraising bike rides, Pedaling for Parkinson’s is unique because of the work of Istvan and his fellow volunteers.

The ride has become a destination event for many avid riders in Ontario, largely because of its homespun feel. Istvan’s mother bakes cookies and gives hugs to weary riders. Participants receive handmade mugs from a local potter. And a local butcher makes sausages for the post-ride barbecue.

As a result, the ride has a one-of-a-kind feel that Istvan says is central to its success.

“Despite our growth, we’ve not looking to become a humongous event,” he said. “We want to remain as grassroots, family, and personable as we can.”