Join us in Davis, Philly or Austin this year for a LIVESTRONG Challenge and honor someone you know in the fight against cancer. This fight is personal!
The same week Sally Reed finished her treatment for breast cancer in 1999, she started volunteering with the LIVESTRONG Foundation. “I was still bald,” Sally remembers. “I was on my road to recovery, and I wanted to give back.”
In 2001, Sally answered the phone when Mark Hayes called to ask if the Foundation gave roses to survivors during our annual Ride for the Roses event. He offered to donate roses, and an amazing tradition was born.
Over the years, the Ride for the Roses evolved into the Team LIVESTRONG Challenge series and expanded from one city to the current three in Davis, Philly and Austin. Since 2002, tens of thousands of survivors have received yellow roses as they finished each Challenge.
Sally remembers her first year of coordinating the finish line tradition in 2002. Everyone has to reach designated points on the course as the Challenge progresses for safety and logistical reasons. If you don’t reach those points in time, Support and Gear (SAG) vehicles will pick you up and drop you off closer to the finish line. During that Challenge there was a father and son who had lagged far behind everyone else. It was getting dark and the SAG vehicles approached to escort them off the course. The father refused. He said, “My son has fought one of the hardest battles of his life, and he’s not stopping till he crosses the finish line and gets his rose.” The SAG vehicles turned on their headlights to guide the way.
Unlike earlier in the day, with thousands of spectators at the finish line, there were only a handful of staff and volunteers left. “There were just a few of us. We turned up the music. When they got to the finish line and hugged, we all started clapping and crying,” Sally remembers. “That was when I realized how important it was to a survivor to get their yellow rose.”
Amazing stories are a constant, Sally says. She’s watched as people weakened by treatment, so weak she didn’t believe they could ride a bike, finished Challenges. And she’s been there beside those who couldn’t maintain their balance who rode stationary bikes at the finish line until they completed their goal.
Sally believes the finish line is a metaphor for the journey survivors have traveled with cancer, and crossing it is a life-affirming reminder of the obstacles they have overcome. The roses symbolize survivors’ future, health, hope, inspiration and strength. “The finish line is one of the most profound moments of your life,” Sally says.
If you’re participating at one of the Challenges this year and you’re a cancer survivor, we’ll see you at the finish line. Your rose is waiting for you.