Viva Catie

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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.

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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.

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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.

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LAF CEO Doug Ulman tells the riders about the LAF mission

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.

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Leading Team Viva Catie into Austin

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Justin and Colleen keeping things safe as we approach the Texas Capital

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The end of a great few hours in the saddle!

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3 thoughts on “Viva Catie”

  1. Bill Summers says:

    As Catie’s dad, I want to thank these great kids, teachers and parents who showed their grit, love and determination for a friend and cause. I also want to thank the LAF for their efforts in the battle against cancer and for giving my daughter memories she always cherished during her visit in the 2005 Ride for the Roses. The battle is always hard and the loss always harder. Sadly, we know this all too well. However, for those who are still threatened we will continue to battle this disease and win. There is no other outcome when we have people like the Clarksville High HOPE Club and organizations such as the LAF involved in the battle. Our thanks and love to all again. Viva Catie. The Summers Family, Clarksville Tennessee.

  2. Congratulations on an incredible and inspirational journey. What an awesome accomplishment. This will be a lifetime and life changing event for everyone involved. It is an inspiration to myself and the others training for our cross country tour beginning in July. We are humbled to join you and LAF in the fight on cancer.

    I never had the honor of knowing Catie but if we can all have a fraction of the impact she had on others lives as exemplified by her family and friends, what a better place this world would be.

    Viva Catie!

    Richard James III
    http://www.livestrongacrossamerica.com

  3. Pamela Magrans says:

    As we approach the 1 year anniversary of Catie Summer’s death, we should remember to live each day as if it were our last. Those who knew Catie can remember her smile and enthusiasm. Those who did not know her, hopefully, will be inspired by the endeavors of groups like the Viva Catie riders. The riders have not forgotten Catie’s struggle. As they train for next year’s ride to Texas they are a testimony to good will, teamwork and perseverance.

    As more people we know fall victim to cancer we all have a part to play in this fight.

    May we all LIVESTRONG in the presence of adversity.

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