by Chris Brewer
It’s a recurring theme for us in the Grassroots Program here at the LAF: we want you to get involved! For some it’s taking something they already are passionate about and making it significant. But for others, like the great group of folks from Tennessee we rode with today, it’s taking a challenge you’ve always wanted to do and then taking that to a whole new level.
The story starts back in 2005. A young girl named Catie Summers had been diagnosed with bone cancer in Clarksville, TN. Despite devastating surgeries and chemotherapy, Catie remained an inspiration, a great friend and a straight-A student who simply would not leave her friends and school. She so inspired those around her that they rode over 30,000 miles and raised over $25,000 in her name so she could come to Austin and be a VIP guest at our LIVESTRONG Challenge Ride for the Roses, weekend. It was a great experience for her and one she truly deserved.
However, as it is all too often in the cancer experience, Catie’s disease returned, and stronger than ever. Despite her medical team’s best attempts, recurrent bone cancer is very difficult to treat and Catie passed away in December of 2007 at the age of 16.
That could have been the sad ending to a sad story, but I am happy to tell you that is not the case. Remember: Catie was and is an inspiration! And so, with the help of Danny Magrans’ a teacher at Clarksville High School and sponsor of the “Helping Other People Everyday”Club they came up with a plan, a Big Plan.
Danny got a group of his HOPE Club members and formed the Viva Catie campaign. Their twofold goal is very noble: support the Lance Armstrong Foundation and a new scholarship program in their local community in Catie’s name that will benefit another cancer survivor (we call that paying it forward around here). But how they were going to do it, that was the big challenge.
The Viva Catie campaign decided they needed to come back to Austin, back to where Catie had found such joy. But they weren’t flying or driving, they were going to ride their bikes 1200 miles, right to the doors of the LAF! Now it’s one thing when a long-time cyclist gets it into his head to do a long ride. Danny’s group was going to do it primarily with high school students, many of whom had never ridden any distance whatsoever, let alone 80+ miles a day.
But train and ride they did, and they set out on May 28 to ride relay-style from TN to TX. While one group of riders was on the road, the other two groups were resting and waiting to take their turn, totaling around 225 miles a day during the daylight window. Along the way they encountered plenty of challenges ranging from differing terrain, mechanical problems, winds from every direction, and oh-by-they-way it’s already around 100F here in sunny Texas. But none of this was enough to stop this determined group and they rolled into Bastrop last night, right on time for their last leg into Austin this morning.
I was very happy to have my colleagues Kim Barnett, Justin Joyner, and Colleen Wilson along for the ride, and with our friend Raymond Armstrong (different Armstrong!) on point in the lead car we were honored to escort them in on their final 38 mile leg. The ride was more celebration than high-speed pursuit, but they had earned this lesser pace from all their hard work along the way. As we cruised into the driveway of the LAF offices, the entire staff came out to cheer them in, a great welcome home for a deserving team.
We then all went inside (to get out of the heat) where we were further honored to accept a donation for over $10,000 from these fine folks, and then we surprised the kids with a conference call from none other than our Chairman of the Board, Lance Armstrong. Lance was on the road but wanted to make sure that he not only knew about their project, but that he appreciated their effort and promised the funds raised would be spent wisely.
After that it was a time for hugs and thank you all around, and then a shower, lunch and a nap! 1200 miles is a long way to ride but the Viva Catie campaign did it with style, grace, and perseverance THANK YOU! and now I have to ask you: what can you do to get involved? It’s as simple as going to www.livestrong.org and clicking the Get Involved button. You don’t have to ride from TN to TX, you can if you want but you can do something.
Viva Catie, and LIVESTRONG!
Leading Team Viva Catie into Austin
Justin and Colleen keeping things safe as we approach the Texas Capital
The end of a great few hours in the saddle!