A Record Ride: Pelotonia ‘17 Raises $26M for OSUCCC – James Research
Pelotonia is all about the numbers.
Or is it?
“Tonight’s about sharing stories,” Pelotonia President and CEO Doug Ulman said several minutes before he and several other members of the Pelotonia community announced the biggest number of them all: $26,229,637.
This is how much money the thousands of Pelotonia participants raised this year. It is a one-year record and brought the nine-year Pelotonia total to an amazing $156.4 million. And every dollar funds state-of-the-art, life-saving cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
The Pelotonia ‘17 Check Celebration was a joyous event that attracted several hundred members of the Pelotonia community, including numerous Team Buckeye riders.
All this success was made possible because, “Everyone here got up one morning and said, ‘I’m gonna do this,’” said Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, the John L. Marakas Nationwide Insurance Enterprise Foundation Chair in Cancer Research at the OSUCCC – James.“Give yourselves a round of applause.”
Caligiuri came up with the idea for Pelotonia in 2008. He has ridden every mile of every Pelotonia, a total of 1,620 miles—and too many hills to count. And, he may have dispensed more hugs and thank-yous than miles ridden over the years.
Here are some more Pelotonia funding numbers: 108 Idea Grants, 436 Pelotonia Fellowships, three statewide screening and treatment programs that include genetic testing, and research support for 87 new junior and senior scientists recruited to Ohio State.
Despite these impressive and transformative numbers, Ulman was spot on when he said Pelotonia is all about sharing stories. It’s the power of these stories, and the people who live them and share them, that have helped Pelotonia become such a successful, emotional and inspiring event that is so much more than an annual bike ride.
The Pelotonia ‘17 Check Celebration at the Express Live program featured several of these inspirational stories before the much-anticipated “reveal” of the fundraising total.
Mike and Nate Schott first rode in Pelotonia in 2003. They rode in honor of their dad, Milton, who was battling cancer, and was weak from his treatments but was at the finish line in Gambier to cheer on and hug his sons. Several tears were shed.
“He said this moment meant everything to him,” Mike said, adding it also meant the world to him and his brother. Milton lost his battle on Nov. 13, 2013, about 17 months after he was diagnosed with cancer. He was 62.
Mike and Nate have continued to ride in Pelotonia, and the family’s Schott Foundation became one of the funding partners that make it possible for every dollar that participants raise to go to fund cancer research at the OSUCCC – James.
“And tonight, we’re thrilled to announce that they’ve not only committed to continue to be one of our partners, but they’ve increased their commitment to $1 million over four years,” Ulman told the cheering crowd.
Why has Pelotonia become so important to the Schott brothers?
Mike paraphrased Ulman to explain his commitment: “He said Pelotonia is one of the very few times in your life where you’ll get to be part of something that will change the world.”
Aaron Conley is a long-time 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,” said Conley, who subsequently became director of foundation relations at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
He concluded his story with some great news: “Today I saw my oncologist, and now I’m four years cancer free.”
First-year rider Sherry Wang 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.
Jay and Mary Knecht were given the Pelotonia MVPs of Hope Award.
Their daughter, Myah Sue, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor shortly after her 4th 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 now an important part of their lives.
“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,” Jay wrote on his Pelotonia profile page.
“I love Pelotonia for the hope it offers,” Mary wrote.
Allie Lenyo is a current Pelotonia Fellow and was given the MVP of Change award.
“So many people come together for one goal and everyone has a story, like I have a story, about how cancer has impacted our family and life,” Lenyo said. “We’re all there to represent our loved ones and get us to the next step of research.”
During her sophomore year of high school, her younger brother, Nick, was diagnosed with bone cancer in his lower left leg. After 18 weeks of chemotherapy, his lower leg was amputated.
Lenyo rides in honor of her brother, who she said is doing great and is playing sports once again.
Raphael Pinan rode in Pelotonia ‘16 and Pelotonia ‘17 with his son, Chance. The father-and-son duo inspired everyone who saw them and were presented with the MVPs of Perseverance award.
Chance has cerebral palsy and is unable to ride a bike. But Raphael was determined to share the Pelotonia experience with his son. He found a rather heavy but workable wheelchair tandem bicycle, and off they went, riding the 25-mile route from Columbus to Pickerington each year.
All these stories provided even more inspiration for the Pelotonia community gathered at the party. The dates for Pelotonia ’18—the 10th-anniversary ride—are Aug. 3, 4 and 5.
“Thank you for what you’ve all achieved as a community,” Ulman told the cheering crowd.