I remember standing at the BellRinger starting line on a brisk Saturday morning last October watching 851 Riders file into the chute, eager to begin their 25-, 50-, and 100-mile rides. This group of Riders represented the vanguard of a new community that will transform our capacity to fund cancer research right here in Washington, D.C. Each Rider, many uniformly clad in navy and green BellRinger jerseys, brought with them their own story to BellRinger Weekend. Some are cancer survivors themselves, others are riding for a loved one they lost, many are researchers who have dedicated their lives to beating cancer, and some are motivated to do their part to create a world where a cancer diagnosis is no longer a life-altering event. At 7:30 AM, the lead car and motorcycles crept forward off of the start line, and BellRinger’s inaugural Ride was on the road.
My BellRinger story began two and a half years earlier on the eve of pandemic lockdowns when I met with BellRinger’s founding partner, Tom Lennox, and the team at Georgetown Lombardi to discuss an ambitious vision for a new bike ride called BellRinger. They offered me the job to become BellRinger’s executive director, and it was a dream come true for a few reasons. First, my mom is a breast cancer survivor, and since her recovery I’ve committed myself to doing everything I can to pay it forward and enable high-impact cancer research like the research that saved her life. Second, I grew up riding in and fundraising for Pelotonia, a Columbus, Ohio-based ride that has captivated the community and raised over $250 million for cancer research over the last 15 years. Finally, I attended Georgetown for undergrad, and the opportunity to return to my alma mater to launch an innovative nonprofit to fund cancer research felt like a perfect fit.
"This was only the beginning of something incredibly special."
Chris Timko, Executive Director
The pandemic initially had other plans for us. Our attempts to get BellRinger off the ground in 2021 were thwarted by the delta variant, but postponing the Ride to 2022 had its blessings. We were able to invest deeply in the community of Riders we were building by hosting happy hours and organizing training rides to get everyone hyped and ready for the big day in October where we’d come together to celebrate our impact and cover a lot of miles in our mission to end cancer. We were so excited when BellRinger Weekend had finally rolled around and almost 400 Riders had registered in the final six weeks leading up to the ride, bringing our total to 851.
I was the last Rider out of the chute on Ride Day. I sped down the entrance to the university and out onto Canal Road to see hundreds of Riders arrayed across the road ahead of me, making their way along the Potomac River and onward into Maryland. The cyclist in me loved the eight miles of closed roads as we headed out onto the BellRinger route. I arrived at the first rest stop in Potomac to a wave of helpful volunteers passing out snacks and refilling water bottles. The waffles were a big hit!
I kept riding from rest stop to rest stop on my 100-mile long journey from D.C. to Urbana, Maryland. The best part about this ride is that the scenery crescendos as the miles increase. It’s easy to forget in the daily hustle and bustle of life in D.C. that beautiful rural backroads are only 15 miles away. Spending the day hearing the stories of the BellRinger community, climbing through the hills of Frederick county with fellow Riders, and being greeted by the smiling faces of volunteers at each and every turn was an experience I will never forget.
It’s a good thing that BellRinger is not a race because I finished in the final group of two Riders as the sun was setting over Urbana. My body was exhausted from the 100-mile Ride, but I dismounted my bike energized because this was only the beginning of something incredibly special. The BellRinger community had come together to ride, volunteer, fundraise, and support each other in ways we could only have hoped for.
Now we’re on to the real fun! The community is thriving, we’ve already raised $1.45 million in our first Ride and more than 100 people have signed up for BellRinger 2023. Join us this year for what will be an even bigger and better version of BellRinger as we expand the community and make our impact on cancer research at Georgetown Lombardi.