When a first-time event raises more than $910,000 for cancer research in a single weekend, it’s no surprise that the encore is highly anticipated, with goals and excitement levels higher than ever. Last October, more than 800 cyclists teamed up for a city-wide fundraising bike challenge, Pedal the Cause, in downtown St. Louis.
This year on Oct. 1 and 2, organizers are predicting that number to more than double. “We’re at 672 right now,” says Jay Indovino, executive director of the organization. “We’ll probably have around 1,500 to 2,000 by the day of the ride, and we expect a last-minute rush, especially from students returning to school.” And look for that $910,00 number to rise, as well. “We hope to raise $2 million this year.”
Pedal the Cause was founded in 2009 by cancer survivor Bill Koman after winning his battle against the disease— twice. “Bill was a patient at Siteman Cancer Center, and he has really dedicated himself to supporting cancer research and finding a cure,” Indovino explains. “The great thing about Pedal the Cause is that 100 percent of all donations stay right here in St. Louis, benefiting research at Siteman, as well as St. Louis Children’s Hospital.” The event is modeled after similar events in the U.S., he adds, like the Pan-Mass Challenge in Boston, which raises $35 million a year for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Pelotonia in Columbus, Ohio, which raised $9 million in its third year. “We are confident we can duplicate that success in St. Louis. Because sponsors and underwriters pay all of our operational expenses, every dollar of donation goes straight to cancer research, right here in our city.”
Edward Jones is the presenting sponsor for this year’s Pedal the Cause, and Indovino says the company’s involvement has been a tremendous boost. “They had a team last year, and this year they have made such a significant commitment to our effort. And we’ve discovered that when Edward Jones gets behind something, they are so committed! They are not only doing it with their checkbook, they are doing it with their legs! They have a very big team and they are providing strong financial support.”
This year’s event features four different courses designed to accommodate a wide range of abilities. “We tried to make it very inclusive, with 15 and 25 miles rides, as well as 50 and 75 mile courses,” Indovino notes. “For those who don’t own a bike or really don’t want to be out on the course, we’ll have a Spin Tent. You can share a bike with three other people, so you’re not riding for the entire three hours. And we’ve also added a Kids Challenge, to give the younger set a chance to take part, too.”
In the spirit of Tour de France, top fundraisers—riders who raise $2,500 or more—are awarded a yellow jersey to recognize their achievement. “These are our top riders!” Indovino says. “And you don’t have to be wealthy to earn a yellow jersey. We’ve had several riders who earned on just collecting $10 and $20 at a time.”
Sounds like a great way to do something terrific for the community. Registration is definitely on the upswing— checking the website at the end of our conversation, Indovino was triumphant. “Look at that—just while we’ve been chatting! 673!”