by Chris Brewer
The 2011 edition of the amazing Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge is in the books, and with that another incredible Ride for the Roses experience closes out as well. A bit of history first: the Challenge was first called the “Race for the Roses” back in 1997, then switched to the “Ride for the Roses” in years after to reflect that we weren’t racing but riding our bikes in the fight against cancer.
But we wanted to keep that heritage alive and so deemed our recognition program for our amazing fundraisers, grassroots, and partner events the Ride for the Roses weekend. This year’s group was comprised of 147 people who raised over $6 million allowing us to perform our mission of providing direct services to those living with cancer as well as providing a platform for advocacy for the fight against this disease.
The incredible weekend started off with a certified Big Surprise: after checking in and receiving all their gear for the weekend, everyone loaded up on buses and head out for dinner at no less than our founder Lance Armstrong’s house. The weather forecast for the weekend was stellar, and they got it right as cool temperatures welcomed everyone to a backyard cocktail reception followed by dinner and being serenaded by one of Lance’s favorite bands, the Gypsy Queens.
The next morning was an early start as over 2200 runners and walkers completed the Challenge 5K with Austin downtown skyline as the backdrop. Afterwards those folks who had achieved Polka Dot and Yellow Jersey fundraising goals were treated to the chance of a lifetime, rolling out on a private bike ride with Lance with everyone getting to spend some time with him on the front, sharing their stories and getting a commemorative photo in the process.
I never thought I’d be able to say I’d attended an intimate dinner for 800 people, but Saturday night the staff at LIVESTRONG was able to do just that! Using the parking lot adjacent to the HQ on another gorgeous Austin evening all of our Ride for the Roses guests gathered for an inspirational evening where the top fundraisers were all recognized (and I even saw magician David Blaine working the crowd as well!). The evening was capped off by Lance recalling the beginnings of the mission of cancer navigation and how LIVESTRONG changed the world by taking on the issue of cancer survivorship and all the practical issues that had largely been ignored for decades prior. And it’s always incredible to close the evening out with a showing of the LIVESTRONG manifesto video…
Sunday and it was time to ride! Thousands of folks headed out to Dripping Springs for an outstanding day on the bike. Our Ride for the Roses participants were bused out and had their bikes all prepped and ready for them to take on the scenic hill country roads, riding from 20-90 miles and then back for some truly special Texas hospitality at the after-ride party.
Someone asked our CFO Greg Lee at lunch, “What is one of the biggest problems at LIVESTRONG?” Greg thought about it for a moment and said, “It’s that those attending the Ride for the Roses weekend get it. They experience the energy and passion that we have for our mission because they come to Austin and literally experience it. We’d love to be able to bottle that up and share that with the 28M people around the world living with cancer, as well as their families and friends.”
We’d love to have you come to Austin in October and experience that passion, too. We’ll kick off our efforts for 2012 starting very soon, December 1, 2011 and go on into the year with renewed energy from another outstanding LIVESTRONG Challenge and Ride for the Roses weekend. If you weren’t here, we wish you had been, and if you were: THANK YOU!!! Simply put, we couldn’t do it without you.
Get more information about the Ride for the Roses weekend on our website.