Pickerington's Jena Cooper turns to washing bicycles to raise Pelotonia funds

STEPHEN BORGNA
sborgna@thisweeknews.com
Pickerington resident Jena Cooper is washing bikes to raise money for Pelotonia this year.

In the absence of an in-person Pelotonia bicycle tour this year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Jena Cooper decided to get her hands dirty.

The 39-year-old Pickerington resident's goal for Pelotonia, which raises funds for cancer research at Ohio State Ohio State University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute, is to bike three 100-mile rides for the teamCOPC peloton. Pelotons are Pelotonia's fundraising teams that are organized by businesses, communities, academic or social organizations or simply like-minded individuals.

Cooper said she'll dedicate one of those rides to her friend Bobby Green's father, Bob Green, who recently died from cancer.

For her fundraising, Cooper decided to wash bicycles.

"I had a friend that was complaining about washing her bike and how much she hates tearing it apart and washing it," Cooper said. "And I said, 'I love doing it and seeing them come clean.' "

Cooper started Mama Coop's Bike Wash and was accepting requests via Facebook Messenger and texts. She said she was accepting any donations people are comfortable with in return for her services.

Cooper's bike-washing services include a full teardown and deep cleaning.

She said she starts with dish soap as a degreaser to scrub the chain and cassette and then lets the soap sit on those parts while she washes the rest of the bike. Then she goes back to the cassette and uses a pipe cleaner to floss between every gear.

Upon reassembly, Cooper said, she polishes the bike with motorcycle polish. Each wash takes her anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half.

"I'm taking the wheels off, giving them a real good cleaning," she said. "Bike shops are completely overwhelmed right now, so it's hard to get them in for repairs, let alone just a good cleaning. And a lot of people don't know how to do that on their own, so they're bringing them to my house.

"I've gotten lots of comments like, 'This looks better than when I got it new.' "

Cooper said she had washed about 30 bikes as of Aug. 3 and had raised approximately $1,700 at that point, with many people generally donating $25 to $30 per bike.

Cooper said she would like to partner with a central Ohio bike shop at some point and set up a bike wash with volunteers.

Her Pelotonia fundraising goal is $3,000.

Cooper said she was disappointed she would not be able to ride in her second Pelotonia event, but she understands why the annual August ride isn't being held.

"I think it makes sense," she said. "Of course, I'm extremely sad -- last year was my first year participating in Pelotonia -- and it was an incredible experience to be out there and train and be out there with all the riders. It was such an emotional and wonderful event."

This year's Pelotonia events were scheduled Friday, Aug. 7, to Sunday, Aug. 9, but organizers canceled them in May out of concern for the safety of participants, volunteers and supporters during the pandemic.

As a result, Pelotonia was reimagined as a virtual event, 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.

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."

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve