2017 Pelotonia Sets Fundraising Record
Giving Hope to Riders and Supporters
Pelotonia started in 2009 as a bold, seemingly crazy idea. Today, you can’t leave your house without seeing one of Pelotonia’s signature green arrows and “One Goal” taglines on yard signs, arrow magnets and T-shirts.
For the OSUCCC – James, Pelotonia is a signature event that funds lifesaving cancer research. For riders, sponsors, donors, volunteers and virtual riders, it’s a passion. It’s how survivors, families and friends come together to honor loved ones who have died and to stand against a disease that claimed nearly 700,000 lives in 2017, according to American Cancer Society projections.
In Pelotonia 17, riders, virtual riders, donors and volunteers raised $26,229,637—bringing Pelotonia’s grand fundraising total to $157 million—a tremendous boon for cancer research at the OSUCCC – James. Every dollar raised goes directly to research, thanks to the event’s major sponsors.
The 2017 Pelotonia Opening Ceremony evidenced just how far the event has come, drawing former Vice President Joe Biden and former Second Lady Jill Biden to speak about the significance of the ride. The Bidens’ son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 while Vice President Biden was still in office. In his opening remarks, he was optimistic about the future of cancer research, saying, “There’s not one single time in American history we’ve set our minds to something that we have not been able to solve.” Biden closed by saying, “I promise you: We will beat this disease.”
Dollars raised through Pelotonia support the people who conduct cancer research at the OSUCCC – James and the equipment they need to do their jobs. Since it began, Pelotonia has funded 108 Idea Grants for a rich array of studies by teams of faculty researchers. It has also funded 440 student fellowships through a program that trains undergraduate, graduate, medical and postdoctoral students to become independent cancer researchers. Students from any discipline can be accepted into the program, where they receive stipends and the opportunity to work in the cancer laboratories of faculty mentors.
While funding research is a powerful incentive for supporting Pelotonia, the stories behind Pelotonia’s riders are equally inspiring. The Pelotonia 17 Check Celebration placed a spotlight on riders like Aaron Conley, a longtime cyclist who rode in Pelotonia for the first time in 2014, less than three months after completing six months of intensive chemotherapy to treat his colon cancer.
“It really hit me during Pelotonia (in 2014) that I was finally feeling OK and was strong again, and I was alive, and I was surrounded by all these other people who were supporting cancer research,” says Conley, who subsequently became director of foundation relations at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He concluded his story with great news: “Today I saw my oncologist, and now I’m four years cancer-free.”
First-year rider Sherry Wang also rode in Pelotonia 17— just two weeks after her final chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Wang said that on her first training ride she could barely pedal a mile, but a few weeks later, with the encouragement of her fellow Pelotonia riders, “who kept telling me, ‘You can do it,’ I was able to ride 25 miles.” She raised more than $13,000.
For Jay and Mary Knecht, who received the Pelotonia MVPs of Hope Award during the celebration, the ride is a way to remember their daughter and to bring hope to other families. Myah Sue was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor shortly after her fourth birthday and passed away several months later. Jay decided to ride in Pelotonia, and Mary came to watch. She was so inspired that she became a volunteer and then a lead volunteer. Pelotonia is an important part of their lives.
On his Pelotonia profile page, Jay wrote, “There isn’t anything I can do to bring Myah back, but I can ride in her memory and do the things that are in my power to prevent this from happening to another family.”
For the Knechts and others who have suffered because of cancer, Pelotonia—once a seemingly crazy idea—provides hope and direction for helping the OSUCCC – James create a cancer-free world.