Christy Bertolo's Pelotonia plans include milestone birthday

NATE ELLIS
nellis@thisweeknews.com
Christy Bertolo is pictured with her children, Addie (left), Audrie and Augie. "I was so bummed out the race was canceled," Bertolo said. "It was falling on my 40th birthday and (Aug. 8 is) also my daughter Audrie's sixth birthday."

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic might have dashed the typical plans for this year's annual Pelotonia cycling ride, but an Upper Arlington resident remains committed to honoring loved ones who have battled cancer and generating community support to fight the disease.

This year's Pelotonia was to be more special than usual for Christy Bertolo, a member of Team Buckeye-B&F Rollers, the official super-peloton of teams representing Ohio State University.

It was to mark her seventh consecutive year taking part in the annual ride to raise money for cancer research, and Bertolo was gearing up to celebrate her 40th birthday Aug. 8 during Pelotonia weekend.

Because of the pandemic, however, Pelotonia officials decided in May to cancel the annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated for Aug. 7-9.

"I was so bummed out the race was canceled," Bertolo said. "It was falling on my 40th birthday and also my daughter Audrie's sixth birthday."

Rather than call off this year's event altogether, Pelotonia organizers reimagined it to keep it rolling virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org to continue the mission of supporting cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

This year's format includes a unifying event in the spirit of Pelotonia's traditional opening ceremony: a special broadcast called Legends LIVE! that will be streamed on pelotonia.org/rise, Facebook (facebook.com/pelotonia) and YouTube (youtube.com/ridepelotonia) from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

"As we've had to pivot away from our traditional mass physical gathering this year, our priority has been to create new opportunities for our community to engage and continue to raise critical funds for cancer research," said Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Pelotonia.

"The My Pelotonia platform and upcoming Legends LIVE! broadcast on Friday, Aug. 7, allow anyone anywhere to play an important role in Pelotonia's mission this year.

"Legends LIVE! will be a celebration of what we've accomplished so far and the important work still to come -- featuring moving and uplifting stories of survival, research successes, musical performances and many special guests."

Although the pandemic-induced Pelotonia pivot was disappointing to Bertolo, it didn't dissuade her from committing to the event and fighting cancer.

The list of cancer survivors and those lost she seeks to honor through the ride includes the names of nearly 20 people.

One of them is her husband, Jason, who was diagnosed with sarcoma in 2018 and underwent surgery to remove a cancerous mass.

She also rides for her stepfather, Randy Morgan, who has battled prostate cancer most of his adult life but is in remission, and for her children -- Audrie, 10-year-old Addie and 12-year-old Augie.

"We are so fortunate to have members like Christy, who have dedicated years to fundraising for life-saving cancer research at the OSUCCC-James," said Karl Koon, development director at the James and rider-recruitment director for Team Buckeye-B&F Rollers. "Pelotonia is an incredibly personal and transformative experience for our members and you can see how Christy's passion for this movement has developed in her seven years as a rider and member of Team Buckeye-B&F Rollers."

Bertolo is pledging to raise $4,000 this year and ride 400 miles by her 40th birthday.

"I kicked off June 1," she said. "I ride a lot in my neighborhood, and I do the Olentangy Trail.

"Something that's been fun this year is other people have gotten involved in a different way," she said. "They come and ride with me. They're helping my goal, and they're riding when they might not normally."

Bertolo said she's employing similar riding and fundraising strategies that include breaking trips into 50-milers and seeking donations $20 at a time.

"I know people get asked to support different causes all the time," she said. "I try to have more bite-sized goals. I find that when you break it down for people, it's an easier thing. No donation is too big or too small."

Bertolo said she's happy to do her part to honor her friends and family who have succumbed to cancer and who are still fighting, and she's hopeful this year's event will be another success before returning to a more traditional ride next year.

"Once you do the ride, it's such an experience to get to be with so many people and get to see where all the funds are going," she said. Unfortunately, every year I add names to the list that I'm riding for.

"Cancer hasn't stopped, so I won't either."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate