J.P. Petit was attempting to cycle about 1,350 kilometres to Hot Springs, S.D., raising money for his granddaughter, who was born with kidney disease.
The Winnipegger was about halfway into his journey, and nearing his $20,000 fundraising goal, when tragedy struck last week.
Petit, 53, was critically injured when he was hit by a cargo truck on Interstate 29, about 27 km north of Brookings, S.D., shortly before noon June 9.
After days in hospital, his family announced his death in a post on his Cycle4Eveline Facebook page Monday morning.
"He leaves behind an amazing legacy of this, which includes his recent support of his son and granddaughter during their kidney donation experience, and then his fundraising plan in support of Eveline’s kidney transplant and for other kids who need nephrology care," the post stated. "And now, with this legacy ride, he is donating his organs to help save more lives."
Petit was a full-time union representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832. He previously worked for Old Dutch Foods Inc.
An avid runner and marathoner, Petit is survived by his wife, Carmelle, three children — Marquis, Julien and Janique — and their spouses, and several grandchildren, including three-year-old Eveline.
Eveline needed a transplant after being born with kidney disease in March 2019. Her father, Marquis, donated one of his kidneys to her March 10, on World Kidney Day.
The family’s experience spurred Petit to raise money to support Eveline’s ongoing care and the Winnipeg Children’s Hospital’s nephrology department.
He decided to cycle to Kidney Springs Park, in the city of Hot Springs, located on the edge of South Dakota’s Black Hills.
His "deeply proud" family described him as a "hero," who was always focused on the health and safety of others.
"God provided us a miracle of a man who is leaving a legacy of love, selflessness, and heroism," wrote Marquis, who was quoted in the Facebook post.
People who are interested in honouring Petit are asked to donate via Cycle4Eveline.ca or leave a tribute gift in his memory at Goodbear.ca. "Both will continue to support J.P.’s final goal," the family post stated.
The campaign had raised more than $22,000 as of Monday.
In a statement, the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba said it is "deeply saddened" by Petit’s death.
"He showed such love and support for his granddaughter and other children needing health care through his fundraiser Cycle4Eveline," the statement reads. "He leaves a legacy of caring for kids and Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba will continue to honour his wishes to support nephrology care through any tribute donations in his name at Goodbear.ca.
"We continue to be here for the Petit family and hope the many beautiful memories of J.P. will give them comfort through this time."
In a statement on its website, UFCW Local 832 said Petit will be "greatly missed" by colleagues and union members.
"This is a huge loss for the local, and we are all still working to come to grips with this tragic and sudden news," reads the statement by president Jeff Traeger and secretary-treasurer Marie Buchan.
"He was a kind-hearted, thoughtful and supportive friend to his many colleagues and members throughout Manitoba, including in Thompson, where he lived and worked as a union rep for several years before returning to Winnipeg."
Petit began his ride in Winnipeg on June 4, and was seeking to arrive at Kidney Springs Park on June 17, cycling about 100 km per day.
He was on the sixth day of the cross-border journey when he was hit by a 2015 International straight truck.
The cyclist and truck were both southbound, said Tony Mangan, spokesman for South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety.
He said the truck was in the right lane and the cyclist, who was wearing a helmet, was on the right shoulder.
Exactly what happened is "part of the ongoing investigation," said Mangan.
Petit was taken to hospital in Brookings, and later transferred to Sioux Falls, about 760 km south of Winnipeg. Members of his family travelled to Sioux Falls to be with him and his wife.
The collision happened about 650 km from Petit’s destination.
Before his death, a preliminary Highway Patrol report indicated a charge was pending against a 65-year-old man who was driving the truck, said Mangan, who was unaware of the specific charge.
It is unclear if any additional charges are being considered following Petit’s death.
In a passage on the Cycle4Eveline website, Petit revealed he chose Kidney Springs Park as his destination based on his visit to Hot Springs, where he ran his first 160-km ultra-marathon.
The park has a fountain of natural spring water, called the Kidney Springs, containing minerals which purportedly promote kidney health.
Petit was interviewed by FM radio station KXLG before departing Watertown, S.D., the morning of the collision. He said his granddaughter’s kidney transplant was a success, and both Eveline and her father were "doing well."
"Eveline’s got weekly hospital visits and she’s going to need anti-rejection medication for the rest of her life, and all kinds of out-of-pocket expenses, so that’s why I thought of doing this big fundraiser," said Petit.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.