When I think about BellRinger’s Inaugural Ride in 2022, I can’t help but remember how this started. I had witnessed some notably successful cancer fundraising bike rides around the country, and also knew that success required a great cause, first-rate organizational support and a community that would rise to the challenge. Buoyed by the profound success of other rides, we took the plunge in 2019, aiming to start in 2021. We were so fortunate to have fabulous commitment from Georgetown University, and engaged with a very experienced team to maximize our chances for success. It was off to the (non) races!
Of course, the pandemic had other ideas, so the first official BellRinger was held this past October. At first the going was rough, since we could not do the expected level of in-person engagement to build ridership due to pandemic precautions, but over time momentum built, and by the weekend of the Ride, we had more than 800 registered Riders, and I could feel the “buzz” all around me, starting with the Friday evening festivities on campus. By Saturday morning, the buzz had transformed into a roar. It was simply fabulous.
So was the Ride. I was able to do only 25 miles as I was recovering from COVID. To be sure, some inclines felt like hills, and some hills felt like the Himalayas, but we got through it. Everything about the experience was first class. It was a lot of fun! But, make no mistake about it; it was fun in the service of an important mission. BellRinger is a ride, not a race, but we are in a race to prevent, intercept, treat and cure cancer; and the momentum generated will resonate for years to come.
Lombardi is one of 53 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, and I have had the privilege of leading the effort for the past 15 years. Our focus is on life-saving research and patient care, and BellRinger helps by building a community of patients, their loved ones, doctors, nurses and researchers, all committed to ending cancer as we know it. I have so many wonderful memories of the ride, but I will never forget the “Why I Ride” wall, where participants used sharpies to write messages related to their own cancer-related experiences, or in honor of a loved one. It was powerful and deeply moving. The BellRinger community is proof that we can come together to make a big difference.
The money raised by BellRinger has been used to support high-impact cancer research by Lombardi scientists such as Dr. David Robbins, who studies abnormal signals used by colon and brain cancers to support their survival; his discoveries will lead to important new therapies for these cancers. Every dollar raised is used with one purpose in mind – to save lives. The bigger the ride, the more money we raise, enabling more research and saving more lives. So, as I look forward to the 2023 ride in October, my biggest hope is that we at least double our ridership, build an even stronger community and save more lives through the work that we do. I am sure of one other thing; it will be a lot of fun!
Stay safe, be well, and join the BellRinger community! I hope to see you at the Ride in October.