Pan Ohio Hope Ride
Effort is 'about the experiences along the way'
Crazy was the word that came to the mind of Chris Meadows when his mother told him she would be biking from Columbus to Portsmouth.
The Morgan House chef, however, has since adopted the same mindset and will be one of 500 riders to make the trek from Cleveland to Cincinnati for the American Cancer Society's Pan Ohio Hope Ride.
Big news changed Meadows' mind about cycling.
"My mother called me up one day and said was she doing a bike ride that went from Columbus to Portsmouth. At the time, I was a pack-a-day smoker with no desire to exercise," he said.
"I said she was crazy, nuts. But she went and got a bike and two months later, got diagnosed with lung cancer ... .
"She went into chemo and that inspired me to get a bike and to do it for her. That's how I started to bike. In 2003, I did my first tour of the Scioto River Valley."
Meadows called his mother throughout the first and second bike rides from Columbus to Portsmouth, giving her play-by-play information on the day.
After she died, Meadows continued riding.
"I became a cycling enthusiast," he said.
"I'm not a racer by any stretch. I do the bike riding for the enjoyment of riding the bike," he said, adding that he began riding for charities that benefited multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis.
"I was doing those and it dawned on me why I was riding in the first place," he said. "I knew I should start riding for cancer."
In 2009, Meadows took on his first four-day, 328-mile Pan Ohio Hope Ride.
One of his talents came in handy while raising funds for the ride.
"They ask you to raise as much money as possible to do the ride, but the goal is always $2,500," Meadows said.
"Being a chef at the Morgan House, I've done numerous charity events," he said. "I got the bright idea: Why not do my own?"
With the full backing of Morgan House owners, Meadows began the Cooking Up a Cure fundraiser that brings together local restaurants offering samples. The most recent event was held Saturday, July 14.
"They support me 100 percent," he said of his employer since 1987. "My friends in the restaurant industry are behind me."
Fundraising for the Pan Ohio Hope Ride is never easy, but Meadows said the people he's met along the way have made the effort worth it.
"It's amazing the impact you have on others," he said, adding that he's met people who have lost family to cancer and others who have survived.
In fact, at the first Pan Ohio Hope Ride, Meadows said he met a group that has become like a family to him.
"During the initial Pan Ohio, I met so many wonderful people doing the ride for their own reasons ... . We formed a great friendship over those four days.
"You share in pain and agony. You share stories," he said. "You're riding with these people six or eight hours a day and you're all feeling the same weariness.
"Since that time in 2009, we have become like a family."
With some of the riders from the Cleveland area, Meadows said he travels to them to ride at least six times a year.
"That's why you do these things," he said. "It's because of the people along the way. It's not about getting from point A to point B the fast way," he said. "It's about the experiences along the way."
The Pan Ohio Hope Ride benefits American Cancer Society programs such as the Hope Lodges that offer free housing for cancer patients and their families who have to travel to different cities for treatment.
Meadows urged people to get out and help, no matter what organization they favor.
"Some of the wonderful survivors I've met, I ride for them. People I've lost, I ride for them. People I will lose and people who are going to survive, I ride for them as well. That and it's just darn fun."
To donate to Meadows' fundraising effort or any Hope Rider, or to volunteer, look online at panohiohoperide.org.