Proudly pedaling to "Don't Stop Believing," Miami became the latest city to join in "Cycle for Survival," one of the nation's fastest growing cancer fundraiser, which raises millions of dollars each year to fight the disease.
This year's event, held at Equinox Miami in Coral Gables, was among the three new cities joining the event this year. The fundraiser, which is growing across Equinox fitness centers nationwide, has raised more than $8.2 million so far this year. Over the past seven years, the event has raised $25.6 million so far and more events are slated this year.
All of the money raised goes to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Center (MSKCC) to fund research into rare cancers, which include ovarian, pancreatic, brain, sarcomas (soft tissue cancers), and all cancers occurring in children. About 50 percent of all types of cancer are considered "rare" cancers.
The event was established by Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband David, when Jennifer was undergoing cancer treatment at MSKCC. An Equinox member, she found the indoor cycling class her ideal refuge to gain physical and mental stamina to withstand treatment. She died of the disease in 2011 at the age of 40, but her supporters have vowed to carry on in her memory.
David's parents, Barbara and Herb Linn, traveled from Deerfield, Ill., to Miami to represent their son, who was riding in the San Francisco event that day. "The energy in Miami was incredible. It reminded me of the first event we held with Jen and David, when they hoped to raise $10,000. They raised $250,000, and they doubled it after that, and so on," said Barbara.
She also lauded Equinox for becoming the event's presenting sponsor. "The first year Jen did the event, she did it under the radar, but when Equinox heard about it, they wanted to be involved. They approached Jen, and now they've said they want to hold it in every club they have. We can't grow it fast enough for them," she added.
Much of the attention centered on 11-year-old Luke, who held court, entertaining and encouraging. Luke Weber, who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three and, at the age of nine, lobbied Congress for more research into pediatric cancers, is a "Miami Heat" fan and visits here often to see his cousins, his father said.
"Luke's had a lot more challenges than any child should have to go through, but he always tells me that if there's a way to make something good out of misfortune, we need to do it. I'm in awe of him," he added.
Richard D. Carvajal, M.D., a medical oncologist at MSKCC, spoke about the research going on at MSKCC. "Every single dollar you raise goes to research to find cures for rare cancers. Some of the trials are going on all over the country; in fact, two of my trials are underway at Mount Sinai," he said, referring to the Miami Beach medical center.
Among the participants were Olympic swimmer Katie Hoff and Fox WSVN-TV's Lynn Martinez, who also covered the event for Deco Drive. Numerous members of Equinox staff from all three South Florida Equinox clubs were also on hand, including Group Fitness Area Managers Geoff Bagshaw, Group Exercise Manager Sonrisa Medina and cycling instructor Terence McKinnon, who joined Medina in helping lead the sessions.
The event proved so popular that riders had to split up their time to make sure everyone who had raised money had the chance to ride, so Tom Krieger, the Equinox Miami manager, promised an even bigger event next year, telling the crowd, "We are going to to keep going until we find a cure!"
More info: Cycle for Survival