GERMANTOWN — A group of 31 Mid-South men biked 525 miles in five days, from the West Cancer Center in Germantown to the Town Center in Rosemary Beach, Fla. Their goal was to promote cancer awareness, encourage a healthy lifestyle and raise funds for the WINGS Supportive Care Division within The University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research, the fundraising arm of West Cancer Center.
The mission is personal for the participants, because cancer has affected each in some way. They kicked off on Sept. 30 and along the way they biked through towns across the Southeast, including Tupelo, Miss.; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Selma, Ala.; Andalusia, Ala.; and more. They arrived at their destination around 4 p.m. on Oct. 4. This year’s group was the largest ever, and each cyclist averaged about 100 miles per day.
Over the past seven years, they have raised more than $250,000.
This charitable cycling event was founded in 2011 by a group of men from the Wolf River Racing Team who were seeking a spiritual retreat for a worthy cause. Funds benefit the WINGS Supportive Care Division of the UT/West Institute that provides support groups, spiritual support, nutrition, transportation, screenings and more.
Over the years, the riding team has earned fans along the way, including “The Pie Lady” who greets them each year about 100 miles into Day 2 of the ride. For several years, the riders have stopped and enjoyed her fresh baked pies. The riders remarked that, after five hours on a bike, “There’s nothing sweeter!” On the road, residents of the small towns the cyclists rode through lined up to see them go by, and some businesses even set up their own donation drives to boost proceeds.
The success of the Ride to Rosemary can be measured not just by the size of the donations, but also by the camaraderie among the riders’ band of brothers.
“These guys do this because they are good men and they love to help others,” says Dr. David LaVelle, an avid cyclist and a physician at Campbell Clinic. “All of us need help from time to time, and this is true especially when facing a mountain to climb like cancer treatments.”
Rider Byrant Funston of Germantown says the ride wasn’t without struggles. “You go through a lot of hard times and its very symbolic of life’s ups and downs. But, with this group of people, we are able to conquer anything that came our way.”
Friends and family met the cyclists at the end of the ride.
Lavelle said, “We rode into Rosemary Beach, down cobble stone streets to the cheers of family, friends and locals. For us, it was like a scene from the Tour de France. We got hugs and kisses from family and friends and each other. But many cancer patients never see a finish line or hear cheers of celebration. Every day is a struggle and they continue to fight on without knowing when or how their ride will end. They are the true heroes, the true warriors of this battle. We rode for them.”
West Cancer Center provides comprehensive cancer treatment in the Mid-South, delivering a complete continuum of care to more than 30,000 individuals annually. For more information, visit westcancercenter.com.
The University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research is a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to raising funds for adult cancer research and patient education, care and support. For more information, visit westcancercenter.org/philanthropy.