Heroes Among Us

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U.S. Cycling ReportPresented by www.BicycleGroup.com  International Bicycling Club

Heroes Among Us

Written by Amy Bush   
Friday, 06 August 2010

Beyond the Individual Accomplishments

-by Amy Bush


On October 2nd, 1996, a promising young professional cyclist announced that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Ultimately, the cancer would spread to his brain and his lungs and threaten his life and his future in the sport. This is a story familiar to almost everyone involved in or follows cycling and all are familiar with the outcome….this young cyclist went on to win 7 consecutive Tour de France and became a beacon of light for those suffering from cancer all over the world. Out of this experience, Lance Armstrong founded the LIVESTRONG Foundation.

CozzaThe generosity within the peloton goes even deeper and the riders take inspiration from many sources to fuel their racing and the way they live their lives. Steven Cozza, who rides for Garmin-Transitions, has founded the Race for Kids Fan Club which supports disadvantaged children from all walks of life be it those who live in poverty, those with physical or mental disabilities, or victims of discrimination, war and natural disasters. It is Stevens goal to “raise 1 million dollars” for these children and he encourages donation to any charity of your choice. His website also provides a list of charities that support children including the Carousel Fund, Families of SMA, Operation Smile and Positive Images.

Similar to Steven Cozza, Rahsaan Bahati is a staunch supporter of the disadvantaged. He has used his involvement in professional cycling, a sport he credits with enabling him to rise above the circumstances of his youth growing up in Compton, California, a community not known for opportunity, to found the Bahati Foundation. The Bahati Foundation “works with local communities to provide inspiration, insight and opportunities for underprivileged youth through the sport of cycling. The Foundation’s GIVEBACK Programs include Cycling Outreach and those that promote Health and Fitness, Education and Music.

Personal experience can be a strong motivation for the start of a charity. As with LIVESTRONG, the Raisin Hope Foundation was founded for that very reason. When Saul Raisin crashed and nearly lost his life due to TMI (Traumatic Brain Injury), he didn’t let the fact that he could no longer ride on a professional cycling team hold him back. He started the Raisin Hope Foundation to help raise awareness for TMI and to provide support for those living and surviving with it. He has charity rides to raise funds, he is a motivational speaker and, amazingly, he is a tri-athlete and has even participated in the New York City Marathon, all of this being accomplished in just the 4 short years since his accident.

Diagnosed at the age of 6 months with Type 1 diabetes, Phil Southerland is another athlete who doesn’t let anything hold him back. When given the challenge and the opportunity to do so, Phil, along with friend Joe Eldridge, founded the Team Type 1 Professional Cycling Team, the only cycling team in the professional peloton to have riders with Type 1 diabetes among its ranks, a team that proves that anything is possible. The team exists in hopes of inspiring those living with diabetes to do so through “proper diet, exercise, treat and technology”. By doing so, they can do whatever their hearts desire and live their dreams. Phil is also a supporter of Camp Kudzu….”a non-profit organization providing education, recreation and peer-networking programs for Georgia’s children with diabetes.”

And then we have Yield To Life, a charity of a different kind and, quite frankly, one that could so easily become an extinct entity if we could all just be a little kinder and a little more patient. It is sad that any of the above mentioned charities is needed but it’s pitiful that we have to have one such as Yield to Life. The mission: “Yield to Life will engage in a vigorous awareness campaign to promote positive attitudes towards cyclists and replace any hostility that exists between motorists and cyclists with understanding, respect and appreciation for all life on the road. Safety for every cyclist is the top priority of Yield to Life. It is Dave Zabriskie’s own experiences as a 3-time victim of the roads that prompted him to start Yield to Life.

KielJelly Belly p/b Kenda rider Kiel Reijnen knows tragedy first hand after having lost his Aunt Hetty Williams 5 years ago to domestic violence. Out of this tragedy, Kiel’s cousins founded “Hetty’s Haven”, a shelter for women suffering at the hands of others. At this year’s Tour of California, Kiel and his cycling family teamed up with Women of Worth to help raise funds for the organization. Women of Worth “assists families in crisis, especially those escaping domestic violence or sexual assault. [They] work to increase self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals and families by assisting them in rebuilding their lives.”

Anybody can make a difference. You don’t have to be a celebrity or professional athlete to get involved. And you don’t have to support every charity that exists, that would be impossible. Find one that tugs at your heart the most, draw from your own life experience to see what change you want to see happen the most and go for it. Donate your time, donate money, even donate blood if you are able. You’d be surprised what one person can do.

(Author’s Note: I had a hard time writing this one. As with all my articles, I want to make them the best that I can but the importance of this one in wanting to bring awareness to the philanthropy of the peloton and get some of their charities’ names out there…..well, I just wanted to do it justice and I hope I did so. I would also like to add links to a couple charities that I have supported over the years either through donation or through participation in fund-raising event…..in addition to LIVESTRONG and the Raisin Hope Foundation, I have supported the Muscular Dystrophy Association ( www.mda.org ), the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation ( www.pedaids.org) and the World Wildlife Fund ( www.worldwildlife.org ). Thanks for reading!!!

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