December 11, 2023

Father starts 1000km cycle across South Island after daughter dies from rare cancer

Aaron Hester is cycling 1000km across the South Island to fundraise for research after his daughter died from a rare liver cancer.

An Aussie dad has embarked on a 1000km cycle across the South Island in memory of his daughter, Lily.

Aaron Hester’s motivation is to fund research for a cure after she died from a rare liver cancer at just nine years old.

Peddling through the passes of north Canterbury, these aren’t your average Sunday cyclists.

It’s all for one cause – the Live for Lily foundation set up in the name of Aaron’s daughter Lily, who was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer.

She was just nine years old when she died in August 2014 – a cruel year for the Hesters.

“Her mum Sianne was then diagnosed with breast cancer in the November of that same year,” Aaron said.

Sianne died two years later.

“It goes without saying your whole world turns upside down,” Aaron said.

Her legacy lives on in the ‘pink jersey’ named after Sianne and given to the rider who has raised the most money so far.

This year it’s worn by Scott Bell who’s travelled all the way from the US.

“Lily was a co-worker of mine’s niece so I got to hear the story and it’s a powerful story all in itself and it makes you want to go do something,” he said.

A fundraising ride has been an annual event since 2016 – raising more than $1.7 million.

Starting in Christchurch the peloton will peddle from the city through Hanmer, Reefton, Hokitika, Franz Josef, Haast and Wanaka before finishing in Queenstown – completing 1000km in seven days.

They’re supported by family and friends from across Australia and the US.

Lily’s 16-year-old brother Oli Hester is also part of the pack.

“It’s our first one going overseas so it’ll be a good first experience for everyone and I think a lot of people haven’t been to New Zealand before,” he said.

Aaron, himself a cancer survivor, has since remarried and Katie joined him on this journey.

“She was like a little bright ray of sunshine coming into my life,” Aaron explained.

All behind a dad who lost his daughter and wife to cancer.

“I think he’s pretty amazing how he’s still doing it,” Oli said.

In the hopes of helping find a cure so no other family has to go through what the Hesters have.

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