Gahanna grad, Westerville resident Jodie Pierpoint ready for first year as Pelotonia cyclist

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Jodie Pierpoint, a Gahanna native and Worthington Schools teacher, is riding in her first Pelotonia as part of the Team Buckeye-Bikers for Brutus team. Pierpoint was born without the lower part of her left arm, so she uses a specially made prosthetic device, created by Form5 Prosthetics Inc. in Columbus, and custom bicycle to participate in the ride. She stands with her bicycle July 24 outside her Westerville residence.

Finding ways to support others comes naturally for Jodie Pierpoint.

A special-education teacher at Wilson Hill Elementary School in Worthington, Pierpoint has come alongside friends the last several summers as they have participated in Pelotonia bike rides.

Being able to personally ride in the race never seemed a possibility to the 45-year-old Gahanna native until a few months ago.

Pierpoint was born without the extremities in her left arm below her elbow.

"I've watched my friends do Pelotonia for many years," Pierpoint said. "As a child, I remember riding a bike, but I hadn't ridden since I was 10 years old. I would go and cheer on my friends (at Pelotonia). I would volunteer, stuff bags, do whatever they needed but never thought (riding in it) would be a reality."

That changed when Pierpoint got in touch with Form5 Prosthetics Inc., a Columbus nonprofit group that provides 3D-printed upper-body devices.

Form5 created a prosthetic device that Pierpoint received last November. A designer from a company called Design Central created a steel rod for the prosthesis and she received that earlier this summer.

Pierpoint went on her first bike ride in July and plans to ride 25 miles for Pelotonia this fall. She has raised $1,250.

"I'm good friends with (an employee) at Form5, so I got my prosthetic last year," Pierpoint said. "I was paired up with an engineering student from Ohio State (University) and they worked together to create this prosthetic that fit on a bicycle. It has taken until last weekend to work out all the kinks. I went for my first bike ride (in mid-July) and I had a smile on my face. It was so much fun.

"We haven't decided (when I'll ride 25 miles). The big weekend was supposed to be Aug. 7, but I'm a little further behind in my training. I hope to do it in the fall."

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Pelotonia in May canceled its annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9.

But a reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on 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."

Pierpoint, a 1993 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who recently moved to Westerville, is riding in support of Linda Richards, a friend who learned in June 2017 she had a type of incurable blood cancer that likely will cause her to be on chemotherapy for the rest of her life.

Richards, who Pierpoint calls "pretty amazing," also is raising money for a Pelotonia bike ride that she plans to participate in virtually this fall.

"I met Jodie in a running group maybe five years ago and we've just become really good friends," Richards said. "I had volunteered in Pelotonia and rode in it for the first time in 2017, and she and another of my friends came to the finish line and cheered us on. (Pierpoint) always wanted to do this but didn't know if she could get on a bike. She's got the biggest heart on the planet and really wanted to ride.

"The first year I trained for Pelotonia, I was diagnosed with cancer six weeks before. I'm going to be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life and Jodie was like, 'I'm going to ride with my friend.' She's so encouraging to her students. She wants to prove to her kids that if you want to do something, there should be nothing to stop you from doing it. She always says I inspire her, but she inspires me."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek