Pelotonia 17 Riders May Push 9-Year Fundraising Total Past $150 Million

Likely no one who attended the Aug. 4 opening ceremony for Pelotonia 17 came away uninspired.

The evening air simmered with a sense of striving toward a lofty goal that was perpetuated by the words of several speakers on hand for the ninth installment of this annual grassroots bicycle tour that, to date, has raised more than $147 million for cancer research at Ohio State.

Among them was former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who quoted an admonition from his mother: “As long as you’re alive, you have an obligation to strive…”

The former VP’s wife, Jill Biden, who has a doctorate in education, told the thousands of riders, virtual riders and volunteers in the audience that their passion, drive and fieriness make Pelotonia “more than an event; it’s a movement” by “an army of warriors facing a daunting foe.”

Cancer survivor Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player who in 2002 won the hit reality TV show “Survivor Africa,” and who later directed his winnings toward charitable work and community involvement, noted that, despite individual differences, all humans are “survivors for a very short time in this world…It doesn’t matter how you leave the world, but what you do every day to make it better.”

OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, punctuated that thought with a simple exclamation: “Wow! Look at what we’re doing!”

(Ohio State University President Michael Drake, MD (right), and Kenyon College President Sean Decatur (left) pause with cancer survivor Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player who in 2002 won the hit reality TV show “Survivor Africa.” All three men spoke at the Pelotonia 17 opening ceremony.)

(On stage at the Pelotonia 17 opening ceremony, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (second from right) and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, receive a Pelotonia 17 jersey from OSUCCC Director and James CEO Michael A. Caligiuri, MD (right), and Pelotonia President and CEO Doug Ulman (left). The Bidens were among the evening’s guest speakers.)

At this writing, Pelotonia 17 riders, virtual riders and donors had raised $17,329,134, a total that kept climbing until fundraising for this year’s event officially ended on Oct. 6. At last report, the Pelotonia 17 tally had pushed the overall nine-year fundraising figure to more than $147.48 million, every dollar of which goes to cancer research at the OSUCCC – James thanks to Pelotonia’s major sponsors, including L Brands, Huntington, and Peggy and Richard Santulli.

Total funds raised by Pelotonia 17 will be announced Nov. 16 at an event at Express Live in downtown Columbus, where a nine-year fundraising total also will be revealed.

“All of the progress that arises from Pelotonia is fueled by your riding, your fundraising, your volunteering and your devotion to Pelotonia’s single goal of ending cancer,” Caligiuri said. “Thank you all so very much.”

Pelotonia President and CEO Doug Ulman said this year’s tour drew 8,022 riders ranging in age from teens to octogenarians. Riders represented more than 40 American states and 10 countries. The riders collectively participated in 282 pelotons (riding groups). And donors to Pelotonia 17 hail from all 50 states and 66 countries.

Ulman also lauded the critical roles played by the many virtual riders and the more than 3,000 volunteers for Pelotonia 17.

“Building the ‘greatest team ever’ takes a lot of hard work,” he said, giving a nod to a slogan for this year’s tour. “This is only possible because of all of you.”

Joe Biden—who along with his wife last summer launched a national venture called the Biden Cancer Initiative to make further progress in cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care while reducing disparities in cancer outcomes—said the Pelotonia spirit provides encouragement to millions who have been or will be touched by cancer.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, the fear of God comes to you,” he said. “You need hope, and not just hope in the abstract, but real hope! What you’ve done with Pelotonia over the past nine years—funding science and treatments—is giving people real hope.”

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