By Phoebe Roe
In the cool early morning hours of Saturday, Aug. 11, around 6,200 people broke a sweat for cancer. They were participants in Pelotonia, a fundraiser that has raised upwards of $25 million for cancer research since 2008 by organizing bike rides around the country. This past summer, the foundation came to Kenyon, bringing along thousands of strangers for one common goal.
It all started in July 2011, when Tom Lennox, CEO of Pelotonia, contacted the College and pitched his plan to move Pelotonia to Kenyon.
[We thought] it would just be a really great thing for the campus and the College in general, said Mark Kohlman, chief business officer and captain of Kenyons Pelotonia team. Besides supporting the non-profit organization, the partnership was also a promotional opportunity for the College. You would not believe how many people I talked to who said, I didnt know Kenyon was here, Kohlman said.
Manager of Business Services Fred Linger also cited the partnership as a way to draw awareness to Kenyon. [The riders] are at just the right age where they have rising college students this will be a huge advertiser for the College, he said.
Theres a profit to it, Linger said. We already net about $350,000 a summer. I think $500,000 is within sight. That pays for a lot of programs.
And Pelotonia was not a financial burden to the College, as the non-profit provided its own food staff and equipment including the tent, the finish line and a generator.
As part of the Colleges agreement with Pelotonia, six Kenyon students were awarded a stipend and selected from an application process to attend a 10-week summer internship program at the Ohio State University with a focus on cancer and biological research: Daniel Akuma 14, Kari Deininger 13, Emily Grenen 13, Harry Hurley 14, Ainsley Lockhart 13 and Olivia Sabik 14.
Before I arrived on campus, I had thought that research at such a large university would be cold, impersonal and intimidating, said Deininger. I have realized that research at a large university would be something Id enjoy pursuing after Kenyon. Deininger studied canine prostate cancer cells in an effort to understand and explain differing dog cell types.
With 41 members of the community and eight alumni participating in the ride, Kenyons partnership also went beyond the promotional benefits. The main thing to remember is its about raising money for cancer research, said Chris Shea 84, who was captain of the alumni team. Thus far, Kenyons team of students and employees has raised more than $30,000. Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for the Study of American Democracy and participant Thomas Karako said, What I was impressed by in a way was how easy it was [to raise money]. The folks around here were very generous, surprisingly so.
Pelotonia participants biked on a route from Columbus to Gambier lined with spectators holding signs and cheering them on. Those who arrived in Gambier found a large-scale festival that took over the campus. There was a stage as big as weve ever seen, with four different bands all day long, and a tent as big as weve ever seen here, Linger said. Its such a happy event for such a grim subject.
Riders ate together under a tent on the lawn in front of Peirce, slept in dorm rooms and left early the following morning, packing up and heading out to ride back to Columbus.
Though this years ride is over, Pelotonia has left its mark: out-of-town riders now frequent the Kokosing Gap Trail as they begin to train for next summers Pelotonia, which will return to Kenyon. This is a partnership for the foreseeable future, Ligner said.
Recently, Pelotonia announced a new goal to raise $50 million during its first five years of operation. If this past summer is any indication, Kenyon and the greater Gambier community will be happy to help every pedal of the way.