By Maryanne Cdristiano-Mistretta
On Sat., Oct. 1, Sunshine Striders Fun Run earned $14,475 at its second fundraiser for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. More than 200 children, from stroller-age to 13-years-old participated with their parents.
Chatham resident and organizer, Kelly Leach, is a rare cancer survivor who started the fundraiser to give her “something to focus on; something to do.”
Leach partnered with Cycle for Survival, a national charity that gives 100 percent of its funds to all types of rare cancer research, and started the Sunshine Striders.
“Cycle for Survival empowers us,” stated Leach. “We are making a real difference to everyone who has ever been touched by cancer. We ride for those who previously fought against cancer – so they’re not forgotten and their battles are inspirations for more research and more progress. We ride for those currently battling sot they have effective treatments and can one day be cancer free. We ride for those who will have future battles with cancer. I had a rare cancer that tends to come creeping back, so I want to support Memorial Sloan Kettering’s research for new treatment options should that day ever come.”
Leach was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in August 2014 – a rare cancer, which is extremely rare in adults. After 12 rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation to her tumor site, and two weeks of radiation to her lungs where the disease had metastasized, Leach is now cancer free.
“My first run of scans after chemo came back clear,” she said. “By November, I had my first CT scans and they came back clear. I still had ten months of chemo. That’s a tough time. Cancer doctors do a lot to make sure they get it all. Post cancer, my scans remained clear.”
Team Pedaling Sunshine was launched in 2015. The team name was inspired by the bedtime song “You are My Sunshine,” which Leach had been singing to her sons, Ryan, 9, and Tyler, 5, every night since they were born.
Her sons, who are students in Chatham, are also involved in the run.
“They’re very proud,” Leach said. “They recognize that we’re having a big impact on doing something good. They use their voices to support, rally friends, spread the word in schools.”
The run is a simple one-mile run, making it easy for all children.
“It’s not competitive,” said Leach. “No one’s recording time. Every participant gets a medal and t-shirt.”
After the run, there’s a big pizza party in the Leach family’s backyard. “It’s one of those events you have to experience,” she said.
Leach plans to have the run each year. In addition to the Sunshine Striders, Leach and her sons are busy with other activities. “We’re a very sports-oriented family,” she said. The boys enjoy baseball and tennis. They all spend summers at the Jersey shore.
For more information on Team Pedaling Sunshine, visit: https://mskcc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=team_pedaling_sunshine.
For more information on Cycle for Survival, visit: https://www.cycleforsurvival.org.