Grove City's Tom Levenick takes challenges in stride for Pelotonia 2020

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
Tom Levenick, a former Ohio State University football player and current captain of the Varsity O Peloton team, works out on an elliptical machine July 29 at the YMCA in Grove City. Levenick was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016 and continues to undergo treatment for the disease. His Pelotonia goal is to run 500 miles on the YMCA elliptical machines and donate platelets to the American Red Cross every two weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Tom Levenick might be the definition of perseverance.

After playing football from 1978 to 1980 under Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce at Ohio State University, a knee injury curtailed his football career.

But Levenick persevered to compete in the 1989 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

He was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2016 and underwent brain surgery, one year of chemotherapy and six months of radiation.

He is one year away from reaching his five-year anniversary and being officially considered cancer-free.

Although a knee surgery forced Levenick to scuttle his plans to ride in the 2019 Pelotonia, he still participated as a virtual rider.

So when Pelotonia in May canceled its 2020 weekend ride and in-person events scheduled for Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9, due to the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Levenick came up with a multifaceted fundraising and activity goal.

Levenick, who is captain of the Team Buckeye-Team Varsity O peloton, is planning to run 500 miles on the elliptical machines at the Grove City YMCA between Memorial Day and Labor Day. He set a fundraising goal of $5,000.

He also set a personal goal of losing 30 pounds during that time.

In the midst of all that, Levenick is donating platelets to the American Red Cross every two weeks through the end of the year.

For 2020, Pelotonia is having participants set their own fundraising and activity goals and track 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 a cancer survivor who is being treated at the James, Levenick said, Pelotonia has a special meaning for him.

"It's a chance for me to give something back and pay it forward," he said. "I know firsthand how much amazing work they are doing at the James and how much they are helping cancer patients.

"The great thing about supporting Pelotonia is that you know 100 % of the money that is raised goes back to the James to help fund their important cancer research," Levenick said.

The elliptical goal allows him to incorporate a physical activity as a replacement for the Pelotonia ride as a way to garner donations, he said.

"I was really looking forward to participating in the ride this year, especially since I couldn't go as planned last year," Levenick said.

The 60-year-old Grove City resident had planned to ride Pelotonia's 75-mile route from Pickerington to Gambier.

It is disappointing the regular Pelotonia event had to be canceled, he said.

"I wanted to do the bike ride because it's almost a celebratory event," Levenick said.

As well as raising money, Pelotonia is a celebration of those who are battling or have survived cancer, a way to honor those who have been lost and a recognition of the James' work, he said.

Levenick said he expects to reach his goal of running 500 miles on the elliptical machines even though the temporary closure of the YMCA building due to the coronavirus "slowed me down a little bit."

When he couldn't get to the YMCA, Levenick contacted friends who have machines in their houses and arranged to log some miles there.

Donating platelets was important to him because they give cancer patients who have low platelet counts the strength to keep fighting, he said.

Jeff Sheard has known Levenick for more than 30 yearsand helped him train for the Ironman event.

"He's like the Energizer bunny; he just never stops," said Sheard, who is owner of Ultra-Fit USA, a sports marketing company.

Just as Levenick didn't allow his knee issues to keep him from reaching his goal of participating in the Ironman event, he's not allowing his more recent knee surgery and brain cancer diagnosis to waylay his desire to support the James through Pelotonia, Sheard said.

"My dad was a veteran, and he'd always talked about how in the middle of a battle, there were guys you wanted to be in the foxhole with you. Tom's someone you definitely want in your foxhole."

afroman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekAfroman