When cancer survivor Steve Ellis straps on his helmet and rides in his first Pelotonia next month, he'll do so with children, both his and those of others faced with the disease, in mind.
"I'm riding for the kids that need to grow up with their parents," said Ellis, who lives in Upper Arlington with his wife, Denise, and their children, 8-year-old Benjamin and 6-year-old Sarah. "My biggest fear was my kids were not going to have a dad and were not going to remember me.
"No kid should have to lose a parent."
Having just turned 48, Ellis plans to ride 45 miles from Columbus to New Albany for the Navigator Management Partners peloton.
As of last month, he had raised more than $1,800 for the cancer-fundraising event, which is well past his official goal of $1,500, but he hopes to collect as much as $5,000.
He'll ride three years after a bout with recurring infections was diagnosed as acute myeloid leukemia, which turned a checkup at a nearby hospital into a 62-night stay at the James Cancer Hospital.
He's in remission, but his displacement from household to hospital and grueling chemotherapy treatments still weigh heavy on his mind.
"My wife describes it well, as basically a bomb went off in our family," he said. "Everything in our lives changed in an instant.
"They couldn't send me home because I was at risk of getting further infection and dying."
Now healthy enough to ride, Ellis said, his top reason for riding is to raise awareness and funds to fight and ultimately wipe out cancer so that no young people lose their parents.
He also is motivated by his mother's successful fight against thyroid cancer, his father's ongoing battle with prostate cancer and a grandmother he lost to pancreatic cancer.
He's riding with his former employers, Navigator Management Partners, because his former coworkers rode with his name on jersey sleeves when he was in the midst of his fight.
"I'm happy to be riding because I think it's symbolic of beating cancer," Ellis said. "But at the end of the day, if this wasn't raising money and awareness to fight cancer, I'd be doing something else.
"Even though there's been breakthroughs, there's a lot we have to do, and it's going to take a lot more money to beat cancer. We're winning battles, but we still need to win the war, and I want to beat cancer's (butt) again."