She Will Ride 500kms and She Will Ride 500 More
Imogen Kuipers: twelve-years-old, cycling state champion, kick-ass fundraiser.
“You know, three children die from cancer every day in Australia,” Imogen Kuipers, a twelve-year-old girl, says as she drops out of a handstand in her living room. A large Rottweiler sits on my foot.
“Ollie always does that,” she explains. “He thinks he’s a lapdog.”
The room is messy—I shouldn’t have expected them to clean for a family member. Dog toys are strewn across the room, some unfolded clothes are piled on the couch, and a DIY slime YouTube video is playing on the TV. Imogen tries another handstand as I struggle to find the right timing to ask the difficult questions.
“Why am I an interesting person?” Imogen laughs and looks at me like I’m crazy. “I’m just an exciting person in general.” She winks and a second dog comes and licks her face.
Imogen Kuipers is a pretty normal twelve-year-old: she likes to make slime, have friends over for pool parties, and annoy her Dad. But she’s also pretty abnormal: she’s raised over $45,000 for kids’ cancer research through the Great Cycle Challenge. In fact, she’s the fourth highest fundraiser of all time.
“It’s pretty cool, right?” She says as she snacks on a cupcake, offering me one as I decline. “You sure? It’s a healthy one. Mum made it with dates and almond flour.”
I said I was sure.
The Great Cycle Challenge is an annual fundraising event where people ride their bikes through the month of October and raise money for the Children’s Medical Research Institute. Their motto is to “Kick Cancer’s Butt” and Imogen’s face is their homepage banner. The GCC started in 2013 and Imogen participated in her first ride in 2014.
“I was only six years old when I did my first GCC,” she says as she opens the door to their shed outside, both faithful dogs by her side. “My bike had no gears and no suspension—it was just this little white bike with pink handle streamers. It’s not like that anymore.”
Imogen turns on the light and dramatically reveals a shed full of bikes. There are road bikes, off-road bikes, BMX bikes, and more accessories than I could count. She points each of them out and tells me when she uses them; each one works for different rides depending on their length and terrain.
“Are these all yours?” I ask, eyeing the larger bikes in the back of the shed.
“No, these ones are Dad’s. He rides with me usually.”
Andrew Kuipers has been supporting Imogen’s GCC rides for six years—riding alongside her even during her toughest rides. He leans against the shed door, a smile on his face, as he tells me Imogen is sometimes a little bit too ambitious and he needs to keep her in check.
“One year—I think it was in 2015, when she was only eight—Imogen wanted to ride 1000kms and I had to say no, that’s just way too far. Her heart is in the right place, though, she really just wants to help the kids.”
Imogen laughs and tells me how she really only started the GCC because of her Dad.
“He’d just gotten all fit,” she explained, poking her Dad in the stomach. “He’s not that fit anymore. But at the time he was and he showed me all these photos of kids in the hospital. They had tubes in their noses and they were all skinny and pale and they had no hair.”
“She burst into tears,” Andrew said, patting her on the head.
“Yeah, I just didn’t like it. I felt guilty—here I am outside running around and there’s these kids just fighting for their life. And some of them are younger than me. Some of them had never left the hospital.”
Andrew locks the shed up as Imogen leads me to her bedroom. The bed is unmade and clothes are strewn across the floor. A bookshelf is cluttered with toys and accessories and a dog bed sits at the end of her bed.
“My longest ride?” She hesitates. “I’m not sure… last year Dad and I rode from Joondalup to Dunsborough. It was 274kms. That’s probably my longest ride, although it did split over a couple of days. Actually, I think 88kms in a day was my longest!”
In her first GCC, Imogen rode 502kms and raised $4,971 for the CMRI. Every year since she has raised the stakes, adding more kilometres to her goal and raising more money. Imogen’s biggest riding year was 2018, when she rode 704kms in October and raised $10,251. This year, however, she’s reeling it in; she rode only 500kms and raised $6,211.
“School is getting more difficult now that I’m in middle school,” she clarifies. “Plus, I have a lot of stuff going on outside of GCC. Last year I was doing GCC, aerobatics, basketball, hip-hop, and competitive cycling. Plus school! It was way too much, and Mum told me I needed to chill out. I agree with her—I was so tired last year that I didn’t want to ride at night, but I had to keep doing it since we had supporters and I had a goal. Dad really kept me on track then.”
Imogen jumps up and rummages through a box under her bed. GCC jerseys and signed shirts fall onto the ground before she pulls out a short and shirt set, holding it up against her body.
“What’s this?” I ask, trying to see the logo. It reads ‘Queen’s Baton Relay 2018’.
“It’s my outfit from the baton relay.” She pulls out a picture and hands it to me. It’s of her holding the baton and smiling. “I did it last year. I didn’t even know I was in the running to get chosen. Dad nominated me but he didn’t think I would get it.”
She folded it up nicely and placed it back in the box, gently laying the photograph on top of it.
“It was a lot of fun—I would never have guessed I would be a part of the Commonwealth Games!”
Imogen’s done more than just be a part of the GCC and the Queen’s Baton Relay. She’s also the state champion for her age bracket in both NT and WA.
“I totally credit my friend Charlie Blyth. We met him when we moved to Kalgoorlie. He really pushed me to ride more often even outside of October and he was the first person to get me into road racing and competitive cycling.”
Charlie also races against Imogen, but their scores are pretty close. Imogen even introduced Charlie to the GCC and he also participates each year.
“How do you manage to raise so much money?” I ask her.
“Oh, most of that is Dad. He really publicises me, like running my Facebook page. He talks to local businesses and gets them to sponsor us. Like, once in Esperance we held a community ride and a bike hire shop gave people free rental bikes if they donated to the cause. Or we hold special community events to get the word out and get other people involved. This year we did a Light Your Bike event where we rode at night and had our bikes all decked out in lights.”
Back in the lounge room, with a sports program playing in the background, Andrew explained how he even got celebrity donations of signed goods so he could auction them off, with all proceeds going towards Imogen’s raised amount. For a few years, Andrew has even managed to get authentic football gear signed by whole teams.
“Only from the Tigers, though, since that’s our team,” he explained with a grin.
“Although, we wouldn’t mind auctioning off gear from the Eagles either.”
Imogen sat across from me at the dining table, a uniquely-shaped triangle table that slotted into the corner of the living space. A large weights machine takes up the other half of the room. We chat about her visits to a children’s hospital in Sydney, where she gave teddies and toys to the children her fundraising supports.
“It meant a lot to me. It made me realise just how much I was helping.”
“How much longer can you see yourself doing the GCC?”
“I hate this question,” she said with a sigh. “To be honest, I’m not sure. The kids need people to support them and I want to keep riding. I think I’ll always participate in the GCC, it might just not be to this extent.”
“Do you want to cycle as a career?”
“I’m not sure. Cycling is fun, but if it loses its fun I’ll stop doing it and I don’t want that. At the moment I’m really into photography, so I might even want to do that. But I’m only twelve—who knows what will happen?”
Imogen and Andrew are flying to Tasmania on Christmas this year to participate in the state champion cycling races again. She plans to participate in the GCC next year with her Dad. When she does, it’ll be her seventh year participating. She will have raised all together over $50,000 for kids’ cancer research by the end of October this year. For more information or to donate, visit