Yesterday I received an email from an avid supporter of the I Do It For Foundation [link]. She asked, “Do you have a copy of ‘the story’? You know of how the foundation came to be and what the vision is .. I mean from like a personal story standpoint?” Then again this morning I received a request wanting to know more about the foundation. It got me searching for that story. I realized that I have never told the story in full on the blog… just snatches here or there.
So, here you go. This is the story from beginning to end. Parts of this story have been told before, but this brings it all together.
In 2006, I set as a goal to ride my first metric century [link]. It was also the first year I took up riding the road bike. The idea of riding past 64 miles was daunting!
I chose to ride in the Stars and Stripes Challenge which was associated with the USA Cycling Professional Championships and would be raising money for cancer research. Admittedly, at the time, I wasn’t concerned with the charitable aspect of the event. I just wanted to have an organized event to help motivate me to my goal.
This did bring the concept of riding bicycles as a way to raise funds to my attention. This became more important to me when a friend of mine, Michael T. McCaskill, learned that he had a cancerous brain tumor. During that ride, I pinned a paper to my back that read, “In honor of Mike McCaskill.”
When 2007 rolled around I had been bitten by the cycling bug and was in it full bore. So, I began planning earlier for the Stars and Stripes Challenge [link]. This time I wanted to bring greater awareness to my “riding for Mike.” I had a logo designed to go on a jersey and converted LowCadence.com over to a special “Ride for Mike” site to help raise funds for the principle charity of the SSC.
My idea was to ride the event in the jersey and then present it to Mike when I was done. Unfortunately, Mike passed away in June. We went ahead and had the jersey finished and decided to ride the September event in Mike’s memory.
It was an emotional experience. The ride stayed with me even after it was completed. The encouragement it offered to Mike’s family really impacted me. While riding the roads around Greenville, my mind would day dream of ways to repeat the experience. It was during these sessions that the commitment to do Ride for Mike each year was born.
I determined at that time I would ride each year an “epic” style ride in memory of my friend. I would use it to raise money for charitable causes. It would start in 2008 when I joined a group of cyclists riding from Greenville to Austin to take part in the LiveStrong Challenge [link].
Once again I was blown away with the emotional impact these types of activities have on people who are struggling with cancer and other life challenges. It lead me to join the Palmetto Peloton Project for the 2009 ride as well. I will always have fond memories of that event [link] and will be bound as friends with my fellow riders for ever.
However, something kept coming to my mind. I felt that the story of Mike was getting lost in the larger story of the battle against the faceless enemy of cancer. I didn’t want to always ride to fight what killed him. My desire was to ride to celebrate what he lived for.
In 2010, I went out on my own. The Ride for Mike would celebrate what Mike lived for [link]. This time I would be raising money for a scholarship that bore Mike’s name. Also, it would be the first event planned specifically for the Ride for Mike and not be a part of another charitable event.
The 720 miles of the 2010 Ride for Mike gave me lots of time to think! I rode from Memphis (where Mike was born) to Greenville (where he went to college) and then to Raleigh (where was a youth pastor at the time of his death). It was THE most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.
On that ride I further dreamed what I would like to see happen with the Ride for Mike. I knew that at some point I would run out of “epic events” to ride. I also realized that Mike would want me to reach out to others just as he would.
That brings us to the 2011 Ride for Mike which was a single-day 220 mile ride from Greenville to Charleston [link]. This Ride for Mike would be for little Rebekah Grace Ellis. She has a congenital heart defect and she had traveled that route many times to visit the Medical University of South Carolina. We would raise money to help cover the incidental medical expenses the family faced.
It was from this Ride for Mike that the I Do It For Foundation was born. I knew that to keep the memory of Mike alive as I had promised to do back in 2007, I would need to make this bigger than myself. What if there were thousands of people doing a Ride for Mike… Ride for Jane… Ride for – you fill in the blank?
The purpose would be two-fold: 1) help these individuals with their financial needs, and 2) offer them emotional support by focusing on THEM instead of the ENEMY. I’ve come to realize that the second objective often means a lot more than the amount of money raised. All of this would be done at zero cost to the people seeking to raise the funds.
So, in 2012, I was joined by Michael T.’s dad, Mike McCaskill and several others supporters to raise money for the infant idea. It was Mike’s first full century ride. Once again, for a whole new reason, the opportunity filled me with a new emotion [link]. Now, Mike and I had a shared experience and a shared goal.
We were able to use the funds to get the foundation incorporated, apply for 501c3 status and start the process of getting materials together for the launch of the foundation for September 2013. Where will the foundation go from there? That will really depend on you.
We are committed to keep the foundation alive in memory of Mike. However, it is up to others to pick up the challenge to do their own I Do It For events [link]. Already, we have jumped the gun and cobbled together ways to help individuals seeking to make an individual difference through personal fund raising. Our September kick off event is still over a month away and already we have raised thousands of dollars to encourage individuals.
I don’t even know how to end this post. There are so many things that have not been said. There are so many opportunities that lie ahead. The story is really only beginning.