The annual Pelotonia charity bicycle tour in August is one of Krista Heisler's favorite weekends of the year.

The Powell resident has participated as a rider and volunteer. This will be her sixth year volunteering and her fourth year as a lead volunteer who will run a rest stop on one of the routes.

"I absolutely love it," Heisler said.

She is one of thousands of volunteers who come together the first weekend of August to make the ride possible.

>> Photographers find
picture-perfect opportunity
to help Pelotonia <<

The nonprofit Pelotonia organization, which is based in Columbus, was founded in 2008, and the first ride was organized in 2009. Through its first 10 rides, Pelotonia has raised more than $184 million for cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, according to pelotonia.org.

The ride weekend includes an opening ceremony and one- or two-day route options of varying mileage for which cyclists commit to raising corresponding amounts of money. As of July 25, 7,358 riders and 334 pelotons – Pelotonia's fundraising teams organized by businesses, communities, academic or social organizations or simply like-minded individuals – had registered to participate, accounting for more than $10.1 million in 2019 fundraising commitments. (Editor's note: The Dispatch Media Group Peloton includes ThisWeek Community News and The Columbus Dispatch staff members who oversee the publications in which this story appears.)

>> 5 things to know about 2019 Pelotonia <<

The opening ceremony is Friday, Aug. 2, at McFerson Commons Park, 218 West St. in downtown Columbus, and the bike rides are Saturday, Aug. 3, and Sunday, Aug. 4.

The 15 route options and their levels of fundraising commitments range from $1,250 for a one-day 25-mile ride from Columbus to Pickerington to $3,000 for a two-day 200-mile ride from Columbus to Gambier on Aug. 3 and Gambier to New Albany on Aug. 4.

Most of the routes begin Aug. 3 in downtown Columbus, but other starting points include New Albany and Pickerington on Aug. 3 and Gambier and Granville on Aug. 4; all routes end in Gambier, New Albany or Pickerington on Aug. 3 or 4.

And none of it would be possible without volunteers, said Lauren Graham, Pelotonia's event and volunteer manager.

>> Pelotonia 2019 rider profiles <<

Pelotonia has a staff of 20, and about 3,000 volunteers assist during the three-day event, Graham said.

"Ride weekend could not happen without our volunteers," she said.

Volunteers staff rest stops, pour sports drinks, make peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and provide first aid to or bike maintenance for riders, Graham said.

Pelotonia accepts volunteers as young as 14 if they are accompanied by an adult; people up into their 80s volunteer, as well, Graham said. Most live in central Ohio, but some attend from out of state, she said.

Fifty lead volunteers serve as the event's eyes and ears, running rest stops and finish-line venues.

At the Highland High School rest stop in Marengo on Aug. 4, Heisler's role as lead volunteer means she will oversee 50 to 60 volunteers to help riders who traverse 180- and 200-mile routes on the second day of their two-day rides, she said.

She said she encourages her volunteers to approach cyclists directly to ask what they need because they often are fatigued from their treks.

The experience is one that she looks forward to, Heisler said.

"It gives me a high through the rest of the week," she said.

Graham said many of Pelotonia's volunteers have been there since the beginning.

One such volunteer is Kendra McCamey, a Hilliard resident who began volunteering during the first Pelotonia ride in 2009.

A cyclist and a sports-medicine physician at Ohio State, McCamey wanted to combine her hobby and her career for a great cause, she said.

Pelotonia, she said, was a perfect match.

During Pelotonia's ride weekend, McCamey serves as a lead medical volunteer, coordinating medical care along all bike routes with her Ohio State sports-medicine colleagues. She said the role puts her on call 24/7 during Pelotonia weekend.

Coordinating medical coverage also means McCamey and others begin inventorying supplies and ordering needed items as soon as Pelotonia concludes for the year.

Volunteer recruiting begins four to five months leading up to the weekend event, McCamey said, and she reviews the roster of volunteers weekly to ensure a good combination of physicians, physical therapists, athletics trainers and other types of trained medical volunteers are staffed.

"The volunteers who so generously give their time (on) ride weekend make my job as lead medical volunteer much easier, and I couldn't do it without them," McCamey said.

Lachandra Baker also began volunteering during Pelotonia's first ride weekend in 2009. Since then, the Columbus resident has helped every year, with the exception of 2011.

This year, Baker plans to work during the opening ceremony at the volunteer check-in area and then the 200-mile finish line Aug. 4 in New Albany.

On Aug. 3, Baker is skipping volunteering to cheer on her husband, Brian, and their daughter, Aujolie, 17. This is her husband's second year riding and her daughter's first year, and they will complete the 25-mile route from Columbus to Pickerington.

Baker said her husband's recent battle with cancer has made Pelotonia even more meaningful to the family. Brian Baker has battled lymphoma over the past four years and now is cancer free, she said.

Although her husband did not quite understand the passion his wife had for Pelotonia's ride weekend, Baker said, since his bout with cancer, he has embraced the Pelotonia family as a cyclist. The Bakers also have encouraged friends and family to participate alongside them as volunteers and riders, she said.

Baker said she is grateful she has been with Pelotonia since its beginning.

"When you experience it for yourself, it literally changes your life," she said.

Pelotonia also provides an opportunity to make instant friends with people one meets over the weekend, Baker said.

"It's such an amazing event," she said.

For more information about Pelotonia or how to volunteer or participate, go to pelotonia.org.

For profiles of riders and coverage of past events, go to ThisWeekNEWS.com/Pelotonia.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah

Tweets by Pelotonia