Ryan Cunningham celebrates completing a ride from Castlegar to Creston and back over two mountain passes. It’s just part of his arduous training for a bike trek to Arizona in August to raise money for Craig Cunningham’s All Heart Foundation.  Submitted photos

Ryan Cunningham celebrates completing a ride from Castlegar to Creston and back over two mountain passes. It’s just part of his arduous training for a bike trek to Arizona in August to raise money for Craig Cunningham’s All Heart Foundation. Submitted photos

Brother’s determination pushes Ryan Cunningham to cycle 2,500 km for heart care

#Cunnycan: Ryan Cunningham ‘pushing the envelope’ to support brother Craig’s foundation

Resilience, determination, perseverance.

Those qualities have defined Craig Cunningham’s long road to recovery following a cardiac arrest prior to an American League Hockey game back on Nov. 19, 2016.

The aftermath of that incident left the Trail native with the partial loss of his left leg, ended his hockey career, but never dampened his spirit, outlook on life or belief that he would recover.

Less than three months later he was lacing up his skates and hitting the ice.

Those qualities, that three-month sequence and the doctor who saved his life, are all part of the inspiration that is pushing Craig’s brother Ryan to tackle the monumental task of cycling from Castlegar to Tuscon, AZ in August.

Ryan Cunningham plans to depart Castlegar on Aug. 3, arrive in Tuscon around Aug. 18 and raise money for the All Heart Foundation started by Craig and Dr. Zain Khalpey, the cardiothoracic surgeon who saved his life, and to raise awareness for sudden cardiac arrest.

Ryan Cunningham is Pushing the Envelope for his brother Craig Cunningham:

Covering over 2,500 kilometres on a bicycle in the middle of the summer, especially through Nevada and Arizona, is a daunting task for anyone. But as Ryan describes it, the journey is a drop in the bucket compared to what his brother went through.

And that will be the fuel in his tank for the entire trip.

“With what Craig went through and being part of those extremes, and how difficult it would have been for him to lose his ability to play hockey, I saw the way his spirit carried him through it.

“So if I was going to do something to support his foundation, that he believes in so much, it was going to have to reflect Craig’s spirit.”

That’s why Ryan has dubbed his journey “Pushing the Envelope Trek to Fight Cardiac Arrest.”

“That symbolizes Craig making incremental progress in his recovery and his determination to move forward in, however, small steps at a time to complete a very long distance.

“And the other side of that is Dr. Khalpey, Craig started the foundation with him. So he’s a big part of what the ride symbolizes.”

Ryan described the days following Craig’s collapse and how the doctors debated what do to next while he was on life support.

“His toes were turning black and they couldn’t find a pulse in his left leg. I just wanted so badly for someone to do something to save his leg.”

That’s when Dr. Khalpey used an oxygenaton machine, designed to pump a patient’s blood outside the body allowing the heart and lungs to rest. That allowed the doctor to perform emergency surgery to assist Craig’s heart.

Ryan explained Dr. Khalpey’s confidence in his abilities and his determination to save Craig’s life were difference-makers at a crucial time.

“He knew he could pull off this surgery. They saved a lot of his leg.

“Again it symbolizes, for me, pushing yourself, push the boundary a little bit and get ahead of where you were.”

Ryan is hoping that spirit and determination carries him all the way to Tuscon. But his immediate goal is preparing himself for the journey.

“I probably decided to do this in February. I started training indoors on an exercise bike. The winter dragged on, so I was only getting out for the odd ride until early May. By late May is when I started getting out for the longer distance rides.”

He lives in Castlegar now so his training, on his days off from Teck Trail, took him from Castlegar to Nancy Greene Lake, to Trail and back to Castlegar. He’s done that as many as five times over a three-day period.

Add in the rides over the Bombi and Kootenay passes to Creston and back, and Ryan is gradually building up his stamina and distance before tackling the challenge.

His fiancée will accompany him in a support vehicle. He has his route planned and his goal set.

But the main impetus is to help his brother’s foundation. And he wants to raise as much money as possible.

“One thing people can do is I have a Facebook page called Pushing the Envelope Trek to Fight Cardiac Arrest. On the page, there is a donate button that will take you to a GoFundMe site.

“Or people can go directly to allheartfoundation.org and you can donate directly.”

In the video below, Ryan says, “I showed up at the gym with a lot of excuses yesterday. I hadn’t slept very well…I had to get on the road to catch a flight in the morning… I had a good list of the default excuses conjured up. This video was sitting in an unopened text from Craig Cunningham which I hadn’t looked at before getting to the gym. Overall great timing for a reminder of what you can accomplish with grit and focus!”

There will be a third way to donate to the foundation on July 26 when the Trail Firefighters Local 941 will be hosting a boot drive outside Ferraro Foods to raise money for Ryan’s ride. The times will be announced soon.

“We are very passionate about this cause as firefighters are more at risk than the general public to suffer a cardiac arrest,” says Trail firefighter Matt Larmour. “And it is the leading cause of on-duty deaths in our profession.”

Larmour explained that the All Heart Foundation is focusing its efforts on technology to help detect irregular heart rates.

“This app that Craig’s foundation is working towards is going to save firefighters lives as well as prevent some of the cardiac arrest emergencies that we respond to.

“It is an amazing thing that Ryan is doing and we are trying to support him any way that we can and we hope the public will come support him as well.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Brother’s determination pushes Ryan Cunningham to cycle 2,500 km for heart care

Craig Cunningham with Dr. Zain Khalpey, co-founders of The All Heart Foundation to raise awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests.

Craig Cunningham with Dr. Zain Khalpey, co-founders of The All Heart Foundation to raise awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrests.

The Cunningham family, from the left, Ryan, Craig, Heather and Mitch. Submitted photo

The Cunningham family, from the left, Ryan, Craig, Heather and Mitch. Submitted photo

Just Posted

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

Terry Miller won the Rossland byelection.on Saturday.  Photo: Terry Miller
Rossland voters select Terry Miller as new councillor

City of Rossland releases results of advance voting and final voting day of council byelection

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

A strong contingent of Trail Smoke Eaters helped out Kiwanis by unloading up to 600 trees at Butler Park on Wednesday, in preparation for their annual Christmas Tree Sale and community fundraiser. The sale starts on Friday, with all funds donated to community groups. Photo: Jim Bailey
Trail Kiwanis Christmas tree sale – a harbinger of the holiday season

Kiwanis is offering free christmas tree delivery for seniors without adequate transportation

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Vees goalkeeper Yaniv Perets stands watch while Tyler Ho takes the puck around the back of the net on Nov. 7. The BCHL press release did not name the player who tested positive.(Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees quarantining after player tests positive for COVID-19

The team, staff and billets are isolating while they are tested

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Most Read