I have been involved in cycling for about two and a half years. The Pelotonia is a 180 mile grassroots bike tour that raises money for cancer research at The Ohio State James Cancer Research Center. It runs from downtown Columbus, Ohio to Athens and then back in two days. The first time I heard of Pelotonia was in 2008, right after the death of my little sister, Eden Rae, to Neuroblastoma. I saw the ad to “Ride with Lance Armstrong” and looked at my aunt, and said, “I want to do that.”
I didn’t really know what emotions I was going through; it was all pretty complicated. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t feel sadness, and I didn’t feel relief – it was a numbness. So, that summer, I wanted something to get me out of the state I was in, and I wanted to do something for somebody. I realized that this was something I could do, something I could give back. I could get my life back on track and I could help people.
I didn’t care it was going to be 180 miles in two days. Despite the fact that I had never ridden more than five miles on a bike, and that the only one I had access to was my dad’s dusty old road bike, Pelotonia reached out and tugged at all the emotions coursing through me, and solidified them into one unavoidable goal.
It is an awesome challenge of physical and mental strength as we battle the hills and heat. In no way am I trying to imply is was a simple walk in the park for me, but by my third year, after all the pain and agony, I rolled in the final finish line first. Out of 5000 people I came first. I had a reason to be motivated just like all the other 5000 riders did. Some had lost loved ones to cancer, some were battling and winning, some were terminal and others just wanted to exercise with friends. Whatever their reason, they all had one goal; end cancer. I’m 17 years old, rode the Pelotonia 180 mile course for three years, and have raised over $30,000.00 for cancer research.
I first heard about Team Will when I was in Washington, D.C. lobbying with my family for Curesearch. My father’s fiancée, Jessica, has two children named Hannah and Duncan. Hannah was in treatment the same year as Eden with Rhabdomyosarcoma which is another pediatric cancer. Thankfully Hannah has been Ned (no evidence of disease) since 2008. In June of 2008, we all traveled to D.C. to speak to our Congressmen about funding for childhood cancer. On the steps of the Capitol, we were having a hard time keeping Eden and Hannah feeling well. We stopped to take a break, and saw all of these cyclists walking up the steps of the Capitol. They said they had cycled all the way from San Diego, stopping to visit children with cancer along the way! Hannah and Eden were asked to sign their jerseys. I never would have guessed in just one short year, I would be a cyclist, too.
That’s why I want to ride with Team Will. I am willing to dedicate my life to helping work toward a cancer free world, and it is a way of coming full circle in the journey I’ve had since I lost my sister. If it weren’t for her, I may never have gotten on a bike. Cycling is my life now; I ride everyday. This is a sport that has just changed my life dramatically. I think I was meant to stay with it.
“Go the Distance 2012” is set for June 24 - July 3, 2012. This time riding from San Francisco, CA to Boston, MA, in 10 days, Team Will plans to cross 14 states, visit 18 hospitals and participate in 7 community rallies with a goal of raising $125,000 for family support services and childhood cancer research. For more information, please visit: www.team-will.org