As the weather warms and the cycling season gets underway, Team Bexley is marking its 10th anniversary and nearing the $2 million mark in raising funds for cancer research through Pelotonia.
Pelotonia was founded in 2008 as a Columbus-based bicycle tour to raise funds for cancer research at the Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. To date, Pelotonia has raised more than $157 million and grown into a grassroots social movement. It is a three-day experience that includes two days for cycling, as well as volunteerism and entertainment.
Pelotonia riders often join fundraising teams called pelotons, some of which are organized within communities around central Ohio. Team Bexley has raised $1.9 million since 2009, the year of the first Pelotonia ride.
"We've averaged about $225,000 each year in fundraising," said Susanne Kondracke, a member of Team Bexley's leadership committee who also works full time as a Pelotonia administrative ambassador.
"We're getting (new) people every day. Right now I think we're at 45 (participants). People can sign up all the way up until the ride," which is set for Aug. 3-5, she said
Those who would like to lend their support to Pelotonia but do not want to participate as a cyclist can sign up to volunteer or serve as a "virtual rider."
"A virtual rider, for some reason, can't be on their bike or doesn't want to be, but wants to support the cause," Kondracke said. "They commit to raising $100. It could be a kid who has a lemonade stand. It could be anybody."
New this year is an app called Pulll, a free activity-tracking app launched May 4 that would allow anyone in the U.S. to unlock sponsor-donated money for cancer research at Ohio State simply by activating the app on a smartphone while cycling, running or walking.
Kondracke said she was one of the first 100 people to sign up for Pelotonia when it began a decade ago. Like many riders, Kondracke has a personal connection to the cause, having lost her father to cancer.
In addition to personal experiences, the fellowship among team members keeps riders motivated from year to year, she said.
"We all have this really special camaraderie, those of us who have been involved since the beginning," she said. "I think that's something we didn't anticipate, is that community of coming together."
Like Kondracke, rider Lee Hess has been involved with Team Bexley since the beginning. Hess' mother died of brain cancer and his father had a bout with esophageal cancer.
Hess, who works in the financial industry, said he initially got involved with Pelotonia because "I had a bunch of friends who were involved in organizing it. I hadn't been on a bike in 50 years."
Hess credits his friend, Dr. Andrew Glassman of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, with convincing him to participate in Pelotonia. Hess said Glass not only took him bicycle shopping but also trained him for the race.
"After that, I was hooked," Hess said.
Hess said he encourages anyone who wants to make a difference in advancing cancer research to get involved with Pelotonia -- even if they're not avid cyclists.
"I really do it to raise money, not that I'm an intrepid bike rider," he said. "But I do it for the camaraderie of riding with friends and doing something important."
For registration and more information, visit pelotonia.org.