Westerville's Cathy Disher steps up Pelotonia fundraising efforts
Westerville resident Cathy Disher is taking a lot of steps to participate in Pelotonia for the fifth time.
This year's annual Pelotonia events were scheduled Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9, but organizers canceled them in May out of concern for the safety of participants, volunteers and supporters during the COVID-19 coronavirus 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 University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.
Disher, a 65-year-old chaplain at the James Cancer Center, plans to cycle 135 miles weekly up to what would have been the Pelotonia weekend and climb the 21 floors of stairs at the James hospital 19 times as a member of Team Buckeye-Champion Chaplains in honor of former patient Robyn Ulrich.
Ulrich was diagnosed with cancer in August 2015 and died in December 2015 at the age of 19. She inspired Disher to begin riding for Pelotonia the following year.
"I got to know her parents really well," Disher said. "They gave me permission to ride in her honor."
That year, Ulrich's parents, John and Becky, donated $1,114 to Disher's Pelotonia fundraiser.
"Her mom asked me, 'Did you ever connect why it was $1,114?' " Disher said. "She said, 'Cathy, it was her room number.' "
So this year, in memory of Ulrich, Disher set out to climb the stairs of the building 19 times -- the age Robyn was when she died.
As of July 14, Disher had climbed the stairs 10 times.
For her 135-mile weekly ride quota, Disher said, she rides 100 miles Saturdays and 35 miles Sundays.
Disher had planned to raise $5,000 this year. However, she already had surpassed that figure by July 14 and had bumped her goal up to $6,000.
Disher said she was looking forward to participating in her fifth Pelotonia ride and will miss being around her fellow participants and the organizers the most.
"In my position at the hospital, we talk a lot about loss," she said. "And it's not always about someone who dies -- it's about things you lose along the way. And I think what I'm missing most is just the community of connection with the people."
This year's format still 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."