Pedal the Cause: We did it (for cancer research)!

By James Short
Director of Digital Communications and Design
Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute


Four of the 14 members of Team Sanford-Burnham: (l-r) James Short, Philip Graham, father and daughter riders Link and Samantha Wilson

More than 400 riders crossed the finish line at the inaugural Pedal the Cause San Diego (PTC) bike ride Oct. 25-26, but proceeds to fund cancer research at Sanford-Burnham and other San Diego institutes are still coming in, and members of Team Sanford-Burnham are still feeling a “rider’s high” from a strenuous workout for a worthy cause.

As of Nov. 1, Team Sanford-Burnham raised nearly $24,000 to place 10th among dozens of teams. All funds raised through Pedal the Cause will go directly to the region’s three NCI-designated cancer centers at Sanford-Burnham, UC San Diego, and the Salk Institute. Our team members included scientists, staff, and supporters. Here are some of their reflections on the ride of a lifetime:

Alexei Eroshkin, Bioinformatics and Data Management: “This was my first 50-mile ride, and it was much easier than I thought. Misty scenic roads with lakes and horses, great food stops and nice chats with other bikers made it fun. Riding next to Craig Venter was also cool. Cheering crowds at the finish made me feel a winner. We all are.”


Team Sanford-Burnham member Ryon Graf was one of the first riders to reach Julian on Saturday.

Ryon Graf, Sanford-Burnham Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences: “My high point was meeting so many amazing people at the Riders’ Village. It was extraordinarily inspiring to hear the stories of those that not only survived but were made stronger by their experiences with cancer. Other high moments included the incredible opening ceremonies and finally reaching Julian!”


Special thanks to Sanford-Burnham Trustee Lorenzo Berho (left) and all of Team Vesta for wearing the Sanford-Burnham jersey!

Philip Graham, Philanthropy (top Sanford-Burnham PTC fundraiser): “As someone who raises money for medical research, I know that private giving is crucial to the fight against cancer. It was exhilarating to see hundreds of riders coming together for our cause. We took our inspiration from cancer patients. When our muscles got sore, we thought about what patients endure, and we just pushed harder.”


After riding 175 miles over two days, Team Sanford-Burnham rider Kim McKewon jumped off her bike, into boots, and onto the finish-line stage with her band PopRx.

Kimberly McKewon, Sanford-Burnham supporter: “I am blessed to be part of this incredible event. The highlight was being able to combine my three biggest passions in life: philanthropy, cycling, and music. After 175 miles and over 12,600 ft. of climbing, performing with the PopRx at the finish line, and raising $3,700 for cancer research, I have officially Pedaled The Cause!!!”

Erica Mills, Terskikh laboratory: “The best part was going up that last huge hill on Torrey Pines Road. I had only biked it once before and had to stop to walk several times. But on Sunday, a fellow rider gave me some pointers about good biking form, and I was able to chug my way to the top!”

Garth Powis, Cancer Center (team captain): “It was amazing to meet the riders in Julian after their long ride up the hills. Tired as they were, they were all excited and committed in their dedication to raising money to beat cancer. Equally moving was the next day, seeing the short-ride cyclists and then the Julian riders crossing the finish line in La Jolla.”

James Short, Communications: “I loved the cowbells. It’s a fond childhood memory because that’s how our mother called us to dinner. Though cancer silenced her far too young 30+ years ago, it’s still the sweetest sound I know. Thanks to everyone for their support so all moms can keep ringing for their children. See you next year!”

John Teegarden, Sanford-Burnham supporter: “The enthusiasm by PTC support staff, whether it was a wave from a CHP officer or encouragement from a course marshal, made me feel energized. They spent the day in awe of us, and I spent most of my time in awe of them. They deserve continual accolades until next year’s PTC where, I’m sure, they’ll raise the bar again.”

Connie Teegarden, Sanford-Burnham supporter: “PTC has become an inspirational goal for me, especially after hearing the survivor stories and the importance of the monies for cancer research. During the weekend, I experienced friendship, devotion, and compassion from everyone involved. I will continue to wear my jersey and share my stories of PTC and the fabulous people at Sanford-Burnham.”


Team Sanford-Burnham long-course riders John and Connie Teegarden.

Samantha Wilson, Sanford-Burnham supporter: “I was overwhelmed by the team atmosphere created from day 1 to the quality of event as a whole, from the opening ceremony to crossing the finish line on Sunday. As a new pediatric nurse, I was happy to join with 400 other riders to promote the impact medical research has on humanity.”


What it’s all about.

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