Pelotonia 15 Brings 7-Year Total to More Than $100M

Sheryl Crow is now a member of the growing Pelotonia community.

“Next year, I’m going to ride the 100 miles,” Crow announced on Nov. 18, and the crowd at the Schottenstein Center roared in approval.

Crow, the star of the Pelotonia 15 Check Celebration, was caught up in the adrenaline rush as thousands of people came together to celebrate raising $23.7 million in 2015 and $106.1 million since 2009. Every dollar raised by Pelotonia goes to fund life-saving research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

“I’m coming back to fight the fight,” Crow, a breast cancer survivor, promised her new Pelotonia pals, and then launched into a heartfelt rendition of “The First Cut is the Deepest.”

In other words: It was an amazing night.

 “And we’re truly just getting started,” Dan Rosenthal, Pelotonia’s board chairman, told the 8,000 members of the Pelotonia community gathered at the Schott. “One day we’ll come together to celebrate raising $100 million in a single year.”

Come on, $100 million in one year?

While this dream may sound unreachable, think back to 2009, the first year of Pelotonia, when riders raised $4,511,868, about a fifth of the total that riders, virtual riders and volunteers raised in 2015. Rosenthal might be on to something.

Or, as Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, director of the OSUCCC and CEO of The James, told the crowd: “Anything is possible.”

Crow’s Pelotonia day began with a tour of The James, which she called “a place of hope.”

“(The new James) opened in December, which coincided with Doug’s arrival,” Ted Teknos, MD (left), told Crow as he led the tour. He was referring to Doug Ulman, Pelotonia’s CEO/president and a longtime friend of Crow.

“He did tell me you built a brand-new hospital just for him,” Crow smiled.

She made a surprise visit to Pelotonia rider Bob Scherer, who was a couple of hours out of prostate surgery and disappointed he wouldn’t be able to attend the Check Celebration party that night.

“I’m so sad I don’t have my guitar,” Sheryl told Scherer, and then gave him a hug and posed for photos with Scherer and his family.

“That touched me beyond anything,” Scherer, 61, later said of the surprise visit. By the way: He’s doing great, and the three-time cancer survivor plans to ride in Pelotonia 16 along with his son, Mike, also a cancer survivor and James patient.

How’s this for a coincidence: Teknos treated Bob Scherer back in 1994 after he was diagnosed with a malignant, Acinic cell carcinoma (ACC) in his neck.

“We’re alive because of The James,” said Mike Scherer, who was successfully treated for testicular cancer.

The doors of the Schott opened at 6 p.m., and a steady stream of Pelotonia people began to arrive. William Dessert and his wife, Marissa, headed over to the Write a Note booth sponsored by Lifestyle Communities. There were 600 cards – and people wrote notes that will be delivered to James patients.

“My boss is here, at The James, and got a stem cell transplant today,” Marissa Anderson-Dessert said after she wrote a note.

“I think when you get a letter of encouragement, even from a complete stranger, it allows you to keep going and keep smiling,” her husband added.

Tracey Gerber struck a pose at the Selfie Station, holding the I’m In For 2016 sign as a prop. “I ride every year for my mom, who is battling esophageal cancer,” she said.

In seven years, 19,749 riders have ridden 3,013,665 miles. Pelotonia has received more than 450,000 individual donations.

These numbers are amazing, but what’s even more impressive is the passion and commitment of the Pelotonia community, Ulman said. “Numbers can’t even come close to describing the individuals we ride for.”

The message is clear, Caligiuri told everyone from the stage: “We are committed to ride and raise until this dreaded disease is behind us.”

After the new Pelotonia video was shown, which displayed the 2015 and cumulative fundraising numbers, Crow took the stage. The Schott went dark, illuminated by thousands of Pelotonia-green glow sticks.

Between songs, Crow talked about her bout with cancer.

“In February, I’m 10 years cancer free,” she declared and the crowd cheered. Crow felt a connection with the crowd and was comfortable talking about her breast cancer experience in a very personal manner.

“It’s enhanced and informed my life, and I now know what it means to be alive,” she said, adding that a lot of “people in this room know what I’m talking about.”

Sheryl called the doctors and researchers at The James and Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center the “real rock stars.” Playing on stage for thousands is “cool,” she said, but “doesn’t hold a candle” to finding cures for cancer.

The entire party was streamed live to the 300 patients in The James–and Bob Scherer was watching from his room.

“At the concert, she gave me a shout out,” Bob said. “She said, ‘Hey Bob, I hope you’re still awake.’”

He was, barely, with a big smile.

During “Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man,” Sheryl changed the lyrics to: “Are you strong enough to be my research doctor?”

And, toward the end of her hour-long, emotion-filled performance, Sheryl again promised she’d be back to ride in August “I have two small children, so I have to believe our best days are ahead of us,” Sheryl said, which pretty much sums up why we ride. It sure does sound like Sheryl is now a member of the Pelotonia community.

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