The Heroic Rescue of the Lost Kitten at Pelotonia

Pelotonia Cat Rescue

At first, Margaret Price thought the little ball of orange fur on the side of the road just up ahead was roadkill.

And then, a split-second later, she saw the little fluff of auburn crawl a few inches.

“I started yelling ‘kitten! kitten! kitten!,’ because, when you’re on a bike ride, you’re supposed to yell out things like gravel and hole,” said Price, who was riding the 55-mile route from New Albany to Gambier in her first Pelotonia.

Yelling “kitten! kitten! kitten!” isn’t in the Pelotonia handbook for riders, and required some quick thinking on the part of this novice rider.

“I stopped and everyone else stopped, and there was also a car that was coming along slowly and it stopped too and put on its blinkers,” said Price, an associate professor in the Department of English and Director, Disability Studies Program at The Ohio State University. She rode Pelotonia with her partner, Johnna Keller, and Christa Teston, an associate professor in Ohio State’s Department of English. All three are members of the M&A Architects peloton (or team), where Keller is a sustainable design leader.

“We threw our bikes down and Margaret and I grabbed him,” Keller said, adding they were in the “middle of nowhere, with a few barns nearby. We started looking for the mamma or its siblings, but couldn’t find any.”

There was never a doubt about what to do.

“He was pretty dehydrated and unresponsive,” Price said of the kitten, who was about five weeks old and weighed a little more than a pound. “We decided to bring him along (to the finish line at Kenyon College).”

Price wrapped the kitten up in a handkerchief and stuck it in the front of her bike jersey, and she and her two teammates started pedaling.

“She amazes me,” Keller said of Price. “I don’t know how she rode and braked one-handed, but she did.”

For about 10 miles, the exhausted kitten nestled quietly in Price’s M&A bike jersey. As the trio (foursome?) neared Gambier, the kitten, perhaps sensing the excitement of the riders and crowd gathered at the finish, got a little frisky.

“He started crawling all around my jersey and neck,” Price said. “He did not want to stay in my shirt.”

Many of the family members and friends of the Pelotonia riders gathered at the finish line noticed the wriggling kitten and heroic riders, and started applauding, shouting encouragement and snapping photos.

A new Pelotonia legend was born.

This inspirational kitten-rescue story is one that almost didn’t happen.

“I was in a terrible bike accident a month before Pelotonia … was in the hospital for several days and it looked like I couldn’t do Pelotonia,” Price said. She turned out to be a fast and determined healer and was able to ride, with the help and support of Keller and Teston.

Pelotonia is an annual cycling event that began in 2009 and raises funds for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James). Pelotonia riders pedal routes from 25- to 180-miles and riders, virtual riders and volunteers have raised more than $145 million. This total is likely to surpass $150 million by the time fundraising for the 2017 ride ends in the fall.

Price and Keller moved from Atlanta to Columbus about two years ago, and Keller, a triathlete, rode in Pelotonia in 2016. Price was there to cheer on Keller … and she was inspired by the power of Pelotonia. “I saw what a big event it was and it was so exciting to have all these people cheering you on and involved in such a big fundraising effort,” said Price, a long-distance, inline skater.

This year’s ride was even more personal for the two riders. Keller’s mother was diagnosed with lymphoma a few weeks after Pelotonia 2016. Price’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, and a second primary cancer a year later. Both of their moms are doing well, their daughters said. Price also rode for her aunt, Holly, who died of cancer several years ago.

“Pelotonia is a pretty spectacular event if you want to feel good about doing something and being part of a team,” Keller said. “The emotions really ride high and it really hit home for me.”

Keller is an able bike mechanic, and a friend to her fellow riders.

“She held a tire-changing clinic for all the members of our M&A team,” Price said, adding that during Pelotonia, Keller “stopped whenever she saw a rider having a problem on the side of the road to ask if they were OK and if she could help. She’s always been that kind of person and she makes me a better person by her example.”

Price, Keller and Teston are all great examples of kindness and caring.

As they rode on to Gambier, up and over a series of rolling hills, they began discussing names for the ball of fur ensconced in Price’s bike jersey.

“We came up with various bike-themed names,” Price said. One Goal, the Pelotonia motto, was discussed, along with Derailleur, which is a bike part.

“And then I thought of Sprocket,” Price said. The vote was unanimous, Sprocket it was.

Price and Keller took Sprocket to their veterinarian on the Monday after Pelotonia. “He needs to get rid of some parasites and he needs to get bigger,” Price said.

And he needs a home.

“Our (two) dogs are old and we’re not sure if we want to shake up their lives,” Price said. “If we don’t keep Sprocket, we have gotten a lot of offers from people who want to adopt him.”

Rescuing Sprocket helped make an already magical ride even more special.

“We were riding for people we love very much,” Price said. “So, it just felt like another important part of a day already so meaningful. And taking a few minutes to help and care for a kitten was just a natural part of the day.”