COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Pelotonia is approaching in August, and since 2008, the ride has raised critical funds to help find a cure for cancer – a disease that impacts all of us, including our very own meteorologist Bob Nunnally, who was diagnosed himself back in January.
On June 8, I shared that I will be “Biking for Bob” this summer, riding 102 miles to help do my part; sharing powerful stories about the ride’s impact in the community along the way, all to help raise awareness in Bob’s honor.
That’s why I spoke to Pelotonia’s top “organizer” — about how he uses his own bout with cancer as motivation to not only ride himself but encourage others to do the same.
“She always had a smile on her face,” recalls Joe Apgar, who says that his sister’s smile was the biggest thing he remembered about Jackie’s experience with cancer when she was 5.
But years later, big brother was forced to lean on little sister after being diagnosed himself in 2007.
“I felt confident in my diagnosis that I was sort of going to make it through, but it was a scary time,” Joe reflects.
Joe, a college student — who already had a job lined up in Columbus — says his biggest concern at the time was finishing school and making sure he made it to central Ohio.
“I did Pelotonia 12 years ago,” remembers Joe. “And I did it to challenge myself and to see if I could prove that I was healthy again, really.”
As a cancer survivor, Joe is not only an avid rider but he’s also now the president of Pelotonia.
“What I learned was, is there’s a community beyond central Ohio that cares about seeing an end to cancer, that wants to come together and do something sort of greater than themselves,” he says.
Since its founding in 2008, Pelotonia has raised nearly $250 million — each dollar going directly to cancer research at The James.
Research that Joe says is done locally but translates globally.
“Taking a chance on people and taking a chance on wild ideas often is how breakthroughs occur, and Pelotonia was founded to just do that,” says Joe of the Pelotonia dollars that often fund riskier research.
A little less than one year ago, during an interview with Joe, I made a promise to ride in this year’s event.
So, I asked the veteran rider for some advice.
“From a fundraising standpoint, just make your notes personal, ask friends and family. I think fundraising is always easier than people anticipate it being,” he encourages. “But food and water: that is the biggest key to a successful ride weekend.”
With Pelotonia now less than two months away, organizers are busy recruiting riders, volunteers and putting finishing touches on the ride.
“This is like a chaotic and stressful time for our team, but it’s also the most fun,” Joe smiles.
As both survivor and organizer, he says he is beyond humbled by the way communities have embraced Pelotonia across the country.
“Every weekend, every event you go to you see Pelotonia shirts, or magnets on cars or yard signs,” says Joe, surrounded by Pelotonia merchandise in their downtown Columbus office. “It’s really just become part of the culture here in Columbus and beyond.”
I also asked the cancer survivor for some words of encouragement for our dear friend Bob.
“You have no idea how strong you are until your forced to go through something,” Joe emphasizes. “Just take it day-by-day. Lean on people, talk to people, be open. If you’re having a hard day, ask for help. It’s not something you need to go through by yourself.”
Joe encourages anyone who is even considering it — to just try Pelotonia. He says he’s confident it will change your life.
I will be continuing to tell stories over the next several weeks. Everyone rides for someone, and this year, for the first time, I’ll be Biking for Bob, who is certainly in our hearts and on our minds.
If you would like to help support my ride in his name, you can visit my Pelotonia rider page. No donation is too small, and every penny goes directly to life-saving cancer research.
To donate, click here.