When Riley Adams gets on his bike Saturday, Aug. 4, he will continue a tradition he started in 2009, when at age 15 he completed Pelotonia’s first charity bicycle tour in honor of his sister, Eden, who died from cancer the previous year.
Now 24, the Columbus resident said his decade of Pelotonia participation has developed into a lifelong mission to fight cancer.
He and his father, Rourke Adams of New Albany, will join more than 8,300 riders for the annual August opening ceremony and bike tour, which this year is Friday, Aug. 3, to Sunday, Aug. 5. It includes 10 one- or two-day route options of varying mileage for which cyclists commit to raising corresponding amounts of money, all of which goes toward some form of research at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
ThisWeek profiled Adams in 2012, when he was an 18-year-old New Albany High School senior about ready to graduate and was using his Pelotonia training and fundraising as his senior-seminar project, a New Albany-Plain Local School District graduation requirement.
Adams, who grew up in New Albany, told ThisWeek he wrote about mental training and mental preparedness, as well as the biomechanics of the body and how internal and external forces can affect performance.
For the profile photo, he donned his custom jersey with a photo of his sister, and he has honored her by wearing the jersey during other rides, often on the second days of his Pelotonia routes.
Adams now is a junior at Ohio State University, and he also works freelance as a carpenter and handyman.
For this year’s Pelotonia, he once again will ride 180 miles – he rode that amount his first year and every year thereafter – which has a fundraising commitment of $2,500, he said. The two-day 180-mile route starts in Columbus and finishes in Gambier on Aug. 4 and begins in Gambier and ends in New Albany on Aug. 5.
He said his goal each year is to raise $5,000, and his highest total in a single year has been more than $10,000. Since 2009, he said, he has raised more than $50,000 for cancer research.
Adams said he wasn’t a cyclist when he decided to ride in Pelotonia as a 15-year-old. He believes he was the youngest 180-mile rider at the time, according to his rider profile.
After Eden died in 2008 at age 8 from neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, Adams said he saw a newspaper ad for Pelotonia. Impressed by the idea of riding with cyclist Lance Armstrong – who at that time participated in Pelotonia – Adams soon realized it was a way for him to help support cancer research.
As he still was coping with his sister’s death, the ride was a well-timed outlet for him, Adams said.
Now, he also rides cross country for another charity.
Since 2012, Adams has cycled across the country for Team Will, a charity started in 2006 that holds treks to raise awareness for childhood cancer.
Cyclists ride 11 days, dipping their tires in the San Francisco Bay and then riding to the east coast to dip their tires in the Atlantic Ocean in New Jersey, Adams said.
Along the way, they stop at children’s hospitals and visit with the patients.
“Our goal is just to make them smile,” Adams said.
This year’s dates were June 20 to 30.
Adams first came across Team Will in 2008 and later linked back up with the group through Facebook, he said. The cyclists happened to be in Washington, D.C., attending a rally for a bill that would fund childhood cancer research, he said. He and his family also were there.
Though Adams didn’t meet the cyclists then, his family did. Eden signed the team members’ jerseys, he said.
When he walks into hospitals with other members of Team Will, Adams said, he feels like he’s back with Eden.
“Walking into those rooms is all too familiar,” he said.
Although seeing the children undergoing treatment doesn’t get any easier, emotionally, Adams said, his experience with his sister’s care helped him overcome that initial shock more easily and move into conversations with the children.
Adams also said he wants to get some members of Team Will to participate in Pelotonia. This year, he said, he will ride to represent Team Will and his sister.
Adams was accompanied by his father on portions of the Team Will ride this summer.
Rourke Adams, an engineer at Honda’s Marysville plant, also will ride with his son in Pelotonia for the third time. He is registered to ride 100 miles, from Columbus to Gambier, and raise $2,000.
He said the ride has become therapeutic for them both, as well as a bonding experience.
“We share a lot of laughs and some tears,” Rourke Adams said.
He said he would like to think his son has helped the cycling community as much as Pelotonia has helped shape who he has become.
“The community bond that Pelotonia has created is so much larger than I ever imagined,” he said.