Cycle for Survival Battles Still Against Rare Cancers

Cycle for Survival Battles Still Against Rare Cancers

By Steve Sears

The numbers are astounding.

In 2018, $39 million raised to fight rare cancers. Over $222 million raised since inception in 2007.

100% of all donations go to rare cancer research led by Memorial Sloan Kettering, all monies released to the healthcare organization within 6 months.

Cycle for Survival, birthed as Spin4Survibal by Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband, David, in 2007, survives this day and only becomes more beneficial because the movement started by a loving, fiery individual with no giving up in her being refused to quit.

Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) now owns Cycle for Survival, and Equinox is a founding partner. Equinox instructors lead high-energy, spin cycle rides at Equinox locations across the country in January, February and March. 

All can participate, no matter your athletic ability. It’s all about funding the fight against rare cancers. 

Sandy and Len Goodman reflect about their daughter. “Jennifer was raised here in Livingston, she’s a member of the Livingston High School Hall of Fame,” Len says. “One thing about Jennifer that I think is important to know is that she was philanthropic throughout her whole life. When she started Cycle for Survival, it wasn’t the first time she was philanthropic. While she was in high school, she was President of her Key Club, and the Key Club has a Single Service Event every year. When she was the President, they took over the Codey Arena (in West Orange) and they ran an event for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and raised $20,000 which, at that time, was the largest Single Service project they ever had.”

Jennifer then attended Duke University and graduated with honors, eventually going on to receive her MBA at Harvard University, where she met her husband. After departing Harvard, she worked as a Senior Executive for several companies. She and David married, and a year into the marriage she was diagnosed with MFH (Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma) Sarcoma, an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer which plagues the soft muscle tissue of the abdomen. She didn’t drink or smoke, and was in the gym every day a 6:00 a.m. An operation was performed to remove a football-sized tumor from her abdomen, and she was immediately sent over to Memorial Sloan Kettering. 

“I always remember the two of us sitting in the doctor’s office, and we received the diagnosis,” recalls Linn. “We both made a very conscious decision. We were, of course, scared, frightened, whatever word you want to use, and we had no idea what the future would hold. But I remember us both consciously deciding to take that fear and put it to the side and try to do everything we could to help Jen, and then help other cancer patients as well.”

There was a short window where Jennifer was declared cancer-free, and in Linn’s words, “we naively thought the worst was behind us.” Both decided in that moment that it was a good time to try and give back to the doctors, nurses, and rest of the medical staff that had done so much to help her. “That was really the beginning of Cycle for Survival. Even during her chemotherapy, Jen enjoyed getting up for her 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. indoor cycling class at Equinox, and we thought about it and realized this would be perfect as a way to give back, it would be perfect as a fundraiser because it’s not a triathlon or marathon that requires months of training. Anyone can get on a stationary bike and ride a little bit, and we started to encourage friends and family to join us for this small, little fundraiser that we were putting on.”

Spin4Survival in 2007 was held at the Equinox Columbus Circle location in New York City. A second successful event was held thereafter, the name was changed to Cycle for Survival, and in 2009 the Linns engaged MSK and Equinox for further, official involvement. 

Equinox is a huge part of Cycle for Survival’s success. Jennifer had stated from the beginning that Memorial Sloan Kettering was responsible for her physical well-being and physical health but looked to Equinox for the emotional aspect. “She would get strength from being in those classes,” says Linn, “so when we first had this idea, all of these instructors at Equinox who had become Jen’s friends over the years didn’t hesitate for a second, and basically said, ‘Whatever we can do to help.’ In those early years, it was a grass roots type of effort with all Equinox employees just volunteering their time to help us on this, and what’s been really great to see is as the partnership has formalized over time and Equinox has become the founding partner, it seems like each year they’ve become a bigger and bigger part of the success for Cycle for Survival. It’s been fantastic.”

“One of the best ways to describe Jen is that her personality and spirit comes alive,” adds Linn, describing the evident feeling during a Cycle for Survival spin. “What I mean by that is, when you go to one of these events, there are people dancing – she loved to dance. There are people who are in tough health situations that, despite those challenges, they’re filled with hope and optimism, and that’s the type of person she was; she was filled with positive feelings. There is that feeling in the air that something is a bit magical, special, that anything can happen. And when Jen would enter a room, she would give that feeling to everyone in the room. There was the little extra, that little extra bit of energy, that extra feeling that something special is happening here and anything is possible. The events themselves mirror her personality.” One thing that’s important is that Jennifer always wanted it to be bigger than her, wanted it to be about others, and so all the choices made along the way bore that fruit. “It was not named after her, it was not all about her, it was about, ‘How can we help as many cancer patients as possible?’ And that you can see at the events as well, because while there are many people who are inspired by Jen, there are far more people at the events who don’t know her and they’re inspired by somebody else – a friend or family member – who may be a survivor or maybe going through treatment. It was always in her mind to be bigger than her, and that has played out.”

Katie Klein is the Director of Cycle for Survival for MSK. “One of the things I think that Cycle for Survival has provided and kind of the nature of what the event is, it’s a big community coming together and the beautiful Equinox clubs that we take over, and people participating as a team. There’s a really very strong kind of community aspect to it. I really think for people facing these rare diseases like Jen did, having an outlet where you can channel whatever you’re feeling – whether you are feeling strong or sad or mad, or you want to sing and dance to the music in a real joyful way – really all of those things can happen at Cycle for Survival. That’s very intentional. It’s such a personal experience.”

MSK shares treatment results with other healthcare organizations, all in the interest of curing those battling rare cancers, and as well is very open with how funds are utilized. “Our ability to track that and to report back to our supporters and participants in a very transparent way has been really key to the growth and success of this movement.” Available links to visit are www.cycleforsurvival.org/what-you-fund, and the following page breaks down the funding allocation from 2018, with 2019 soon to come: www.cycleforsurvival.org/2018-funding-allocations

For Klein and MSK, they search for every opportunity to make everything better, whether it be a user experience on the website or an opportunity to improve the event experience. “I think we owe it to everybody that we’re continuing to evolve this event. One of the things we’re trying to do, and that we’re very fortunate in, is that we are very close to the participants. They over the years really have been our partners in the evolution of this event and this movement, so that really helps us continue to make this the best thing that it can be because people are pouring their heart and soul into this. They deserve to walk into the doors and have it exceed every expectation they can have. They give so much, and we’re grateful for that.”

Klein is also grateful for the working relationship with the Goodmans. “It has been amazing with all of us to be able to partner with them in building Jen’s legacy, and all the years in between when she was still with us. They‘ve always just been there for everything and we cannot be more grateful for all that they have done over the years.”

“Spinning is symbolic,” says Sandy, dispelling worthwhile wisdom. “Everybody can do it; all ages, all races, all educational levels. Rare cancers are not rare. Also, sometimes — and I’ve heard this from different places — people feel at this point that the  charity is so successful that their contribution is insignificant. But it isn’t. It’s all important. Don’t think you’re not helping.”

Len and Sandy Goodman welcome the opportunity to speak to businesses and groups (please call 973-994-9440 to schedule), and are seeking entertainers (face painters, balloon twisters, dancers) to volunteer their time at events. 

Cycle for Survival events will be held in 17 cities across the country in 2020, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. At the February 1, 2020 Summit, New Jersey event, teenagers 14 years to 18 years can spin and enjoy a special teen event from 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (*Note: a special ½ day event has been added in Summit on February 2). For more information, or to register or donate, visit at www.CycleForSurvival.org. You can also call 888-72-CYCLE.

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