Charity Spotlight: Lymphoma Ride

Hundreds prepare to battle lymphoma on a fundraising bike ride through Montgomery County.

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Riders participate in the 2011 Lymphoma Research Ride, a 25- and 50-mile course through scenic Maryland. (Photo courtesy of the Lymphoma Research Foundation)

On September 30, hundreds are expected to take to the rolling hills of Maryland in the Lymphoma Research Ride, a non-competitive, 25- or 50-mile course that benefits the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF). This year’s ride is expected to raise around $500,000 for research and treatment, money that directly benefits many of those participating in the annual event.

The ride was started by Dr. , deputy chief of Hematology-Oncology and head of Hematology at Georgetown University Hospital’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, and his wife Christine, a Bethesda resident who handles the planning and logistics. Six years ago, the Chesons were looking for ways to get involved in charity work in the DMV area and came up with the idea of a bike ride that patients and their friends could all take part in.

Some riders participate to honor someone they have lost to the disease. Others, like , are patients who hope to benefit from cures developed with the money they help raise. Recently, and Geoff talked to Washington Life about the ride.

Dr. Bruce Cheson (left), co-founder of the ride, and Geoff Grubbs, ride participant and organizer. (Photo courtesy of the Lymphoma Research Foundation)

What has changed about the ride in the years you’ve been involved?

Geoff Grubbs: Scale is the big thing — this is catching on. As people recruit others it expands, and now there are people on my team that I’ve never met before. The ride is totally doable and brings a great sense of accomplishment that’s contagious. Our registration numbers for this year are higher than ever before. We have more teams and individual riders are raising more.

Christine Cheson: The first year we set a goal of 80 riders and $150,000. We exceeded 100 riders and raised close to $300,000. Last year we had over 200 riders and raised over $500,000. In five years of doing this we’ve raised over $2 million. Our goal for this ride is $500,000 and we’re already way ahead on the number of teams registered.

What’s the mood like on the day of the ride?

GG: The event itself is extremely upbeat — buoyant in a word. It’s incredibly well organized; when you arrive there’s a hot breakfast, promotional items, balloons, and everyone’s really cheerful. People are excited to do this.

CC: It’s pretty emotional the morning of the ride to see everyone heading out, smiling, wearing the race T-shirt. It’s a remarkable population and we have seen some incredible stories. The course is challenging, and for some people it’s their first time on a bike. We always have riders who are patients coming off chemo. Last year a young woman organized her family from all over the country to ride for her. We have a 78-year-old man who rides every year. We all can write a check, but the people who join seem to really believe they are making a difference. They feel that they have some sense of control.

Lymphoma Research Ride CEO Diane Blum with Dr. Bruce and Christine Cheson. (Photo courtesy of the Lymphoma Research Foundation)

What should more people know about lymphoma?

GG: Lymphoma and leukemia are hard for people to understand because they’re blood cancers. It’s all through your blood, and there’s no tumor. It takes a lot of different forms and each is very different in how they affect people. There are both really aggressive and very slow cases, and for many of them there are no cures. It’s a cancer that doesn’t get a lot of press.

To get money raised for research at a time when things are getting cut is very important. My own case is slow moving; I’ve been given about eight to 10 years. We’re letting the disease take its course and managing the symptoms.

This year for the first time someone was cured with my kind of cancer. In the history of this disease there has not been a person ever that could use the word “cured” and that has happened for the first time.

With decoding the genome and all kinds of new things on the treatment front, eight to 10 years is a huge amount of time. Stuff is starting to happen.

To learn more about the ride, make a donation, or register to participate, please visit www.lymphoma.org or call 212-349-2910.

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