Most YSC stories don’t begin with four grown men sleeping together in a cramped trailer parked on a gravel driveway. But this one does. As the story goes, this bizarre episode is one of the legends of the first-ever Tour de Pink ride.
In 2004, long-time YSC supporter Lisa J. Frank and I hatched the crazy idea of a long-distance bike ride to raise awareness and funds for YSC. That first ride started at the Wellness Community near Boston and finished at the NYU Cancer Institute in New York, covering 220 miles in four days. To keep expenses to an absolute minimum and ensure that YSC received almost every penny we raised, we vowed to cut corners whenever possible.
Only five riders took part: me, Peter Finder, Josh Jacobstein, Matthew Rivera and Noel Knecht, a young breast cancer survivor diagnosed at age 32. Lisa trained her butt off and raised a ton of money, but, sadly, couldn’t ride because she was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer less than two months before our ride.
Along the way, we suffered rain, cold, headwinds and … how shall I say this? … less-than-ideal accommodations. One night we stayed at a family’s small rural home in southern Massachusetts. Noel was given the guest bedroom, while we four guys stuffed ourselves into sleeping bags and crammed into a pop-up trailer in the driveway. Needless to say, none of us felt like Sleeping Beauty the next morning.
The next night, we stayed at a larger house in central Connecticut — but one not quite large enough. We slept on mattresses on the floor, sharing the living room with each other and the family’s big dog. Our rest stops were whatever convenience stores we could find. Our SAG fleet was one rented SUV, driven from town to town by a network of volunteers. But somehow, someway, we all finished the ride in one piece. We only lost Noel once, and that was just for a few minutes. And we even raised more than $26,000 for YSC!
Eight years later, our Tour de Pink events are professionally managed, and multi-day riders get to stay in comfy hotels and eat catered food … a far cry from our first ride! In 2012, YSC will host four outdoor rides (East Coast, West Coast, Atlanta and Northern Minnesota) and two indoor spinning events. Tour de Pink will welcome more than 1,400 riders and volunteers from all over the country. More important, the concept that raised $26,000 that first year now generates more than $1 million for YSC annually. The vast majority of that money goes toward providing free programs, resources and educational materials that help ensure no young woman ever has to face breast cancer alone.
Thanks to the hard-working YSC and G4 Events staff members, courageous riders, selfless volunteers and thousands of individual and corporate donors, who have taken Lisa’s and my idea and run … well, ridden … with it!
Today, Lisa is the President of YSC’s Board of Directors and Co-Chair of Tour de Pink. I remain a volunteer Co-Chair of the events.
This October, YSC CEO Jennifer Merschdorf, who was kind enough to let me hijack her blog for a day, will join us for her first Tour de Pink ride. I’ve promised her she won’t have to sleep in a trailer.