Yesterday was a very big day. As many of you know I signed up to participate in the Ride 4 Yellow event in Steamboat Springs, CO. The event was a 25 mile mountain bike ride from the DuMont Lake Trailhead on Rabbit Ears Pass over Mount Werner and down to the top of Steamboat Resort's Gondola. The intent of the function was to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Given my experiences with Clyde's cancer over the last few months combined with my affinity for riding bikes, this seemed a natural fit.
The appeal of participating was made event greater when I learned that Lance Armstrong himself would be riding along. That fact alone made the $100 entry fee and the commitment to raise $500 more seem paltry. I have admired Lance for many years, not only for his dominance of pro cycling but also for his unwavering diligence in raising awareness of cancer and the struggles of those afflicted with the disease.
In the weeks and days between enrollment and the actual event I was preoccupied with the possibility of meeting Mr. Armstrong. What would I say? How would I act? What would he say to me as a way of expressing his condolenses for Clyde's loss and in thanks for the money I'd raised? Would I embarrass myself on the ride?
Little did I know that the "experience" of the day would have nothing to do with any of those things.
Thanks to all of you and some who have never and will never see this blog, I was the third highest fundraiser. My total as of Sunday morning was $5,455.00. While in the grand scheme of the fight against cancer that may be a drop in the bucket, to the event organizers and me it is a massive total. Combined the riders, of which there were only 200, raised in the neighborhood of $240,000. If every community in America could do that we'd be talking serious money.
The knowledge that we had, collectively, raised that kind of money created a strong sense of community among the riders, most of whom were complete strangers at the start of the day. A bond was established by the understanding that we were a part of something special. Anyone that has held a fundraising event for the first time knows that generating large sums is next to impossible. We had done it. For me, knowing that my circle of family and friends had lead the pack in honor of Clyde is a source of great pride.
I went to Steamboat thinking that my story, Clyde's story, was very dramatic if not tragic. We were unique in the bond we shared and the loss my family had incurred. The Steamboat Pilot, the local newspaper, and the event organizers thought so as well. Each featured the story in the days before the ride (http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2010/aug/06/benefit-dollars-roll-steamboats-ride-4-yellow-even/). When I arrived on the day of the event I learned that nearly every rider participating had a similar story. Someone they knew and loved had been sick or died because of cancer. Several were themsleves cancer survivors. In a strange way this strengthened the sense of community even further. We were all working together to heal, give back and try to prevent others from suffering the same pain we'd all experienced. At the lunch that followed the ride there were close to 500 people, all of whom had experienced cancer in similar ways. This is a powerful realization. It gave a different meaning and purpose to the entire day
In the end, the the power of the day wasn't what I had anticipated. I never spoke to Lance let alone met him. I watched helplessly as he rode away from me in the first 100 yards of the ride and never saw him again. As for the ride, there were a couple of instances where I showed other riders, 10 to 15 years my junior, that a 48 year old guy on a 15 year old bike can still get the job done.
The meaning of the event was to strengthen the resolve of those participating by demonstrating that we have this enemy in common. Sure, Lance puts his name on it which gives the cause credibility but it's us, the riders, the community, that will eventually raise the money and awareness that will result in a cure.
Clyde was diagnosed 22 years before she died. In that time the technology of cancer treatment advanced by leaps and bounds. Each of those developments was driven and funded, at least in part, by people like you and me that have lost loved ones to the diseases we call cancer. The Livestrong message, if I understand it, is that we all need to take responsibility for getting to the cures.
Thanks again for you donating to this cause. It's impact is universal.