The largest single fundraising event in Canadian history kicked off in Toronto on Saturday.

The fourth annual Ride to Conquer Cancer saw more than 4,610 registered riders hit the pavement in the early morning hours to begin a weekend-long bicycle ride to Niagara Falls.

The participants set a new fundraising record with over $17.5 million raised in support of the Campbell Family Research Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Paul Alofs, the CEO of the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, said that virtually every Canadian family is touched by cancer.

"Every eight minutes somebody in Ontario is diagnosed with cancer. There's family, friends, somebody that you work with, so cancer is really a disease that touches everyone and everybody here has got a story," he said.

Participants are set reach Hamilton by Saturday night, and finish in Niagara Falls on Sunday in either a 200 kilometre or 200 mile ride.

While the journey can be physically and emotionally grueling, some people said they wouldn't miss it.

Julie Kinnear, a 10-year cancer survivor, said it was her third year participating in the event.

"I'm thrilled to actually bring more and more riders every year to raise more and more funds and more awareness," she said.

For others, it was their first attempt at the ride and their first year dealing with cancer.

"The first thing I did was reassess my priorities and what emerged now is I'm going to do what I can in support of cancer research," said Mario Faveri, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October.

CTV's Paula Todd said she decided to ride for a second year in a row after realizing she was fortunate enough to have early detection technology available to her after a scare with breast cancer.

"I have this amazing summer ahead of me unlike a lot of people right now who are struggling with cancer and I thought if others can do it I could get back on my bike and help raise funds," she said.

One rider stood out in the sea of yellow jerseys with dozens of names written around a blue cape on her back.

"Somebody said to me they have my back and I'm like yeah, they have to have my back because I need all the help I can get. They're my inspiration, they're why I'm doing this," said Sheilagh McGlynn.

Alongside her fellow riders, Kinnear said she really enjoys the event.

"I love the speeches and I love the camaraderie and I'm proud as hell to be a survivor," said Kinnear.

With files from CTV Toronto's Scott Lightfoot.