When Kayak For a Cure started four years ago, the homegrown charity had 15 participants and raised $1,500 for cancer research and treatment.

Yesterday, the event, which is now in five cities in Canada and the United States, had 65 participants and raised $35,000 — an “incredible feat” considering its humble roots, said organizer Mark Starkey.

Starkey came up with idea for the fundraiser after his grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia.

“The fact that my grandmother was able to have this kind of impact on so many people is (amazing),” he said.

“(But) it’s really about everyone’s stories. We want to make sure that we honour everybody’s stories.”

Don Wilder’s story is about his mother, who died of cancer in 2005. He joined the event in Victoria and Vancouver in her memory.

“A couple of years ago I was kayaking around Vancouver Island and … thought it would be nice to find a way to use a kayak to raise money for prevention of cancer,” said Wilder.

He said he came back from his trip and learned that his vision was already a reality, and joined in the next Kayak For a Cure event.

“It’s emotional because you’re thinking about who you lost, but it’s also a very rewarding experience as you try to raise money to help people,” Wilder said.

“I will be here for the rest of my life with Kayak For a Cure.”