A child that Hilliard resident Ken Huffman never met will serve as one of his motivations when he rides 180 miles in Pelotonia on Aug. 5 and 6.
The 54-year-old father of three said the story of Elena, a 6-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain-stem cancer, "spoke" to him when he heard it on a podcast about two years ago.
"It was a heartbreaking story that spoke to me because my own daughter was the same age as Elena," he said.
As the tumor grew, Elena lost the ability to speak and began writing hidden notes to her parents and younger sister. Her family found one of her last notes two weeks after she died; in it, she apologized for being sick. A final note remains unopened, Huffman said, recounting the story.
Huffman also writes the names of many people on the stem of his bicycle handlebars, glancing down during his long rides training for Pelotonia, for which he is raising $2,500.
"You find different inspirations each year," said Huffman, who first participated in Pelotonia in 2014 and rode 100 miles. "Unfortunately, it isn't hard to fill spots on my bicycle with names."
He said in 2014, he learned a co-worker's wife had cancer.
"Then it was the wife of another friend of mine ... and still others I knew," he said.
He rode 180 miles in 2015 but did not ride last year.
This year, he is riding for Ohio State's Team Buckeye peloton as an alumnus.
"(Pelotonia) is easier to do with a corporate sponsor," Huffman said.
He is training by riding with his daughter, Claire, 15, in events sponsored by Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure.
Huffman and his wife, Chris, also have two 19-year-old daughters, Kaitlin and Marissa.
"I think about Elena and all the others when I'm on the road ... and hope we find the cure," Huffman said.