August and September are right around the corner which means that GLY cyclists [and walkers/runners!] are gearing up for two signature cycling events: Obliteride, in support of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Bike MS: Deception Pass Classic, in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Because many of us have a personal connection to cancer and multiple sclerosis, we’re once again riding proud and fierce to help raise funds for cures. Last year Principal Bill DeJarlais helped kick off fundraising efforts with some extra inspiration and shared what cycling means to him. This year, Design Engineer Seppi Hutter shares his story.
Why I Obliteride
In the Spring of 2011, I finished my third year studying Architecture at Philadelphia University and was looking for a way to stay active during the summer—not to mention, I needed to prep myself for my last season on the school’s tennis team. One of my classmates happened to be an avid cyclist and, naturally, suggested that I invest in a road bike. He told me all about the Kelly Drive Loop—a nine-mile ride that parallels the banks of the Schuylkill River and passes through Philadelphia University’s campus, Boathouse Row, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rocky Statue. I couldn’t think of a better time to try cycling…especially when this specific exercise had unbeatable scenery along the way.
I set out to find an affordable, used road bike. After some craigslist surfing, I landed a bright yellow 1987 Bianchi Campione D’Italia. It had a steel frame, 12 speeds, and a very uncomfortable seat. I rode that thing all summer.
As I started my summer cycling routine, my doubles partner and roommate, Tom McAvoy, was facing some heartache at home. His father Tim was battling his second round of Stage 4 Hodgkin’s small and large cell lymphoma. Tom and his family lived about 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia. Living nearly 3,000 miles away from my home in Bellevue, WA, the McAvoys became my adoptive family. I spent Thanksgivings at their house and attended multiple family gatherings. Needless to say, their battles were my battles as well.
Tim was a fantastic athlete who played Division 1 tennis at Penn State, won multiple Platform Tennis national championships, and was even inducted into the Platform Tennis Hall of Fame. Up until college, I didn’t have any close friends or family who battled cancer. I was thankful for this but also very naïve to the disease. Tim was so active and just didn’t fit the mold—or at least the one I’d developed over the course of my life—of a cancer patient. That summer, feeling healthy and strong as I rode my yellow bike and played tennis with Tom, I realized, cancer doesn’t care who you are.
I learned something else that summer and the years that followed: people who battle cancer do just that. They BATTLE. The doctors originally predicted that Tim had six months left to live. That diagnosis didn’t matter to him. The same goes for so many others who battle cancer day in and day out. Battle he did, and I’m happy to say that Tim is still kicking my butt at ping pong when I visit.
Thanks to Tom, I’m an avid cyclist to this day. I even found an additional passion: building and repairing bicycles. Thanks to Tim, I have a strong appreciation for my health and admire those who find the strength to fight such a scary and aggressive disease.
This is my second year participating in Fred Hutch’s Obliteride with my fiancé, Laura. I am proud to support an organization that conducts lifesaving research and provides world class resources to those battling cancer. On August 10, I will ride for Tim McAvoy and millions of others who have suffered from this disease. Remember, at the end of the day, no matter how healthy our lifestyles are, cancer could choose any one of us. Please support our team and let’s battle together!
P.S. My yellow bike is in good hands with Tom in Philadelphia. Its sentimental value makes it too hard for either of us to part with.
GLY is proud to once again support two incredible organizations and their missions to better the health of so many lives. Participants hope to raise a combined total of over $85,000 for Obliteride and Bike MS: Deception Pass Classic, with more than 50 participants between the two teams.