Be The Difference surpasses $2M in donations after Wheel To Survive event
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Be The Difference Foundation’s Wheel to Survive has done more than just survive, it has thrived.
So does the promise for ovarian cancer patients.
The Feb. 26 ride, held at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, had raised $334,229 at press deadline, allowing the organization to give away its $2 millionth dollar this year.
“We raised $35,000 over our goal for this year and, five years later, our spirit is still fresh,” said Jill Bach, an ovarian cancer survivor of 10 years this month, who co-founded BTDF with Helen Gardner, of blessed memory, Lynn Lentscher, and Julie Shrell to raise money to support the awareness of, and hopeful cure for, ovarian cancer.
“We are just as invigorated now as we were with our first ride and all of the participants, those who helped in the planning, our cycling instructors, and really everyone, (created) a feeling of community and responsibility.”
There were 380 riders who made pledges of a minimum of $250 each, some for the first-time and others who have been spinning their wheels for each of the five rides. Throughout the years, BTDF has expanded to include events in Austin, Houston, Lubbock, the Bay Area of Northern California, and, for the first time this year April 30 in South Florida, with Jill Bach, daughter Alicia, Jon Mize, and Lisa Hurst there to represent.
Marcy Kammerman instigated the April 30 Florida ride in Delray Beach, which runs from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. She first rode in Dallas in tribute to her friend Kathy Mansfield, of blessed memory. At press time, Kammerman and co-chair Stacey Krone, whose mother Jeri is now in the throes of the disease, already have 61 riders and more than half of their $50,000 raised.
All funds raised at Wheel to Survive rides will be directly pledged to programs at the Clearity Foundation, the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, Dr. Doug Levine’s work at the Gynecology Research Lab at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, the Moon Shots Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Ovarian Cancer Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lisa Mize, the wife of BTDF’s Wheel to Survive Jon Mize and member of the Jumping Jacks team, has ridden for all of the hours of each of the rides in the last year.
“I see how hard Jon works and how much he cares, how could I not support him?” she said. “I see the 110 percent that happens each day and I’m here riding for all those who cannot.”
Supporters and riders, young and older, filled the gym with spirit and spinning spokes.
“Every day is an absolute blessing,” said Bernice Bach, Jill’s mother-in-law who came in from Atlanta to ride with the Teal Riders, raising close to $4,000 herself.
Bach’s husband Alan and daughter Michelle also spun in support.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Jill and everyone and I’m so excited to be a part of this. What an amazing day.”
As in previous rides, the last hour of the event was dedicated to survivors and those who have lost their battle to the disease. In addition, survivors were present and speaking to the crowd before each hour began, telling their stories of strength, community, bravery and optimism.
“A powerful moment is an understatement when reflecting on standing at the front of the ride with the other survivors – a stage of brave women,” said Shrell, whose husband Rob, daughters Marissa and Simone, brothers David and Jeff all pushed spokes for the cause. “All levels of survivorship; newly diagnosed, many times diagnosed, in remission, are all so strong and inspiring. The awareness of this disease and what it can do to us, to our families, is our priority. It’s why we’re here and there needs to be more of us surviving. The numbers haven’t changed – more than 15,000 women die every year from ovarian cancer, the percentages greater for Ashkenazi Jews — and we need, we must make the change happen. This is a sorority we never wanted to be a part of and so we ride in memory of those who are gone, in honor of those in the midst of it all.”
Joining Shrell, Bach and Lentscher were Jessica Baxter, Linda Bezner, Joanne Burlou, Kathy Drescher, Athene Harmel, Charlotte Huthnance, Mimi Kogutt, Nancy Phillips, Lauren Shecht, Holly Tomlin and Karen Wyll and survivor, Mandy Ginsburg, who spoke in memory of her mother and aunt who both passed away from the disease. For all, it is hoped this is the last ride needed — that a cure comes through and ends the pain, worry, strains and loss.
Wheel to Survive is just one of many projects of BTDF, the organization just signing on to volunteer at the UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, speaking with newly diagnosed patients.
“The clinic reached out to us and we all believe it’s important to share our experiences and we want to make such a connection in each of the cities where we have rides,” said Bach who, with Linda Bezner, Joanne Burlou, Lentscher and Shrell, has committed to once-a-week support at the hospital.
“There aren’t many survivors of this disease, but we are here, and we are hope.”
For information on future Wheel to Survive rides, to participate in person, as a “virtual rider,” or to make a general donation, visit bethedifferencefoundation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.