Pedaling, running, and walking to fight cancer
Break out the bike shorts.
Oil those chains.
Set your playlist, hydrate and let’s roll.
The Dolphins Cancer Challenge is back.
An army of cyclists and runners will invade South Florida roads this week — for a good cause.
It’s the Dolphins’ ninth annual cancer fundraiser, with all proceeds — topping $27 million since its inception — going to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Health System.
The kickoff party is Friday, leading up to Saturday’s main event: five bike rides throughout the tri-county area (including a 52-miler that begins in Boca Raton) and a 5K run/walk.
The stories of struggle and survival are ubiquitous, but that doesn’t make them any less compelling.
“With my family, we’ve been touched by it,” said offensive lineman Sam Young, a DCC board member and South Florida native. “We’ve had some successes in terms of people have gotten through it and have had tremendous success, and other family members haven’t been so fortunate. From my perspective, the more we can do to raise money, raise awareness, these organizations like Sylvester that are researching, putting all this time, money and effort into finding cure, the better.
“Cancer affects not only the individual, but the whole family,” he added.
Young’s active participation is striking because of his uncertain future professionally. There’s a chance he never plays another down for the Dolphins. The Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas grad has spent the past three years with the organization, but is now a free agent.
He wants to keep playing and knows it might be elsewhere; Young said he has received some interest from other teams.
And yet ...
“I’m firmly committed to the DCC,” he said. “This is where I’m from, this where my wife and I are going to raise our daughter. I’m committed to supporting our community. This is where we live. Whatever it is, we want to help. The cause to me and the Dolphins is bigger than any of these other things.”
The DCC’s mission, according to materials provided by the team, “is to improve people’s lives through financial support for innovative cancer research at South Florida’s only academic-based cancer center.”
More than $3 million has been raised this year — including $1 million from Team Lennar alone.
“You talk to people who were Stage 4, no chance, and they go to Sylvester and they try this innovative treatment,” Young said. “They’re doing well, they’re in remission, tests are coming back negative. It helps reinforce that what you’re doing is making a positive impact.”
Young — who is participating in the 5K with his wife — points out how Sylvester is committed to combating not just the common forms of the disease, but the rare ones too.
He was particularly impacted by stories of firefighters, who due to the contaminates they inhale, have a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
In 2015, Sylvester launched the Firefighter Cancer Initiative, which sets out “to better document and understand the excess burden of cancer among Florida firefighters, and identify novel, evidence-based methods for reducing risk.”
Young, like most everyone, has had people close to him affected by cancer. And while he wanted to keep the details of those stories private, they have been a motivating factor in his involvement.
“I don’t think that we’re all that unique,” he said. “Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’re fighting for that day when we all don’t have those stories. The story is we’ve beaten this disease. We’re fighting for that.”