Since its inception, Team Bexley has been among the top 10 fundraising teams in the annual Pelotonia bicycle race that funds cancer research -- but its riders aren't satisfied just yet.
The team of 98 that raised more than $225,000 last year will kick off its season Sunday, April 7, with hopes of recruiting 125 riders and raising $300,000 for the 180-mile ride that will take place Aug. 9-11. According to the Pelotonia website, Team Bexley is already in third place for fundraising this year with more than $42,000 donated.
To reach its goals, the team is hosting a rally for current team members and new riders and volunteers at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Drexel Theatre, 2254 E. Main St. The film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, with its iconic bicycle scene, will be shown on the theater's new digital projection system.
"We want to host events this year that are welcoming and inviting so that even more people want to join us in our mission," said Susanne Kondracke, who serves as a tri-captain on Team Bexley.
Show tickets are $10 in advance or $12 day of the event. Each attendee will receive a raffle ticket to win prizes, including a $500 gift card from roll:, a Bexley bike shop. At the event, Sweet Thing Gourmet will debut a Pelotonia-themed jam and team captains will be on hand to discuss upcoming fundraisers and membership options. Team Bexley's participants range in age from teenagers in high school to retirees.
Kondracke rides in honor of her father who died from kidney cancer and who, she said, was always "fascinated" by treatment research and breakthroughs.
She said anyone who is interested in the cause -- bicyclist or not -- should attend the rally.
"I think we just want to meet people and take away the intimidation factor," Kondracke said. "If you look through the pictures on the (team) website of past rides, there are people riding all kinds of bikes and if you don't want to ride a bike at all, there are other ways to get involved."
Anyone who'd like to join the cause, but can't bike 25 to 180 miles or is younger than 14, is able to become a virtual rider, which means he or she raises money but doesn't have to hit the pavement.
By joining a team for $10 on pelotonia.org, Kondracke said that member has no fundraising requirements, but can organize or volunteer at fundraising events.
Other upcoming fundraising events that will benefit Team Bexley include a community garage sale, a car wash and swim and skate parties hosted by the high school team members.
The team's signature fundraising event will be held May 19 at Guiseppe's Ritrovo on Main Street. Every year, the restaurant, which is normally closed on Sundays, opens its doors and donates dinner proceeds to Team Bexley.
For a calendar of the team's fundraising events, visit its website teambexley.org.
Although there are plenty of organizations benefiting cancer research, Kondracke said, supporting Pelotonia is close to her heart not just because of her father and an interest in cycling, but because the money is used to fund local research at the Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Last month, Pelotonia team leaders had the opportunity to tour the facilities and see what their hard work has made possible.
"It's happening right in our backyard," Kondracke said. "It reminds you that Pelotonia is really a fundraiser first and foremost, and it just happens to be a bike ride."