BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Young Survival Coalition Tour de Pink is a three-day charity bike ride raising funds for young women affected by breast cancer – and this year, it made its way through Bridgewater and Raritan.
The bike ride was co-founded in 2004 by Lisa J. Frank and Matt Purdue to raise awareness and funds for the Young Survival Coalition, the first organization that focuses exclusively on the needs of young women affected by breast cancer.
Over the years, the 200-mile three-day ride has generated more than $8 million and consists of three outdoor rides in the East Coast, West Coast and south.
This year’s ride began Oct. 6 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and finished Oct. 8 in Long Branch.
On the way, riders passed through Branchburg at South Branch Road, down Old York Road, past the Basilone Statue and across the Nevius Street Bridge before heading into Hillsborough on the way to Princeton.
Participating for their 14th and 10th rides were Bridgewater residents Evan Lerner and Jeffrey Brookner, respectively.
“Twenty years ago, Lisa and I both did the Boston to New York AIDS Ride,” Lerner said. “It was similar to the Tour de Pink, but much bigger. After she co-founded the YSC, she set out to organize a bike ride to raise money for the charity.”
“Lisa and I bumped into each other at a mutual friend’s birthday party a little over 12 years ago,” he added. “She told me about the TdP and asked me if I wanted to ride.”
The route through Bridgewater and Raritan was designed by John Chaki, who grew up in Raritan.
“I was born in Raritan, and three generations of my family are from Raritan,” he said. “This is the second time the course has gone through Raritan. I of course favor it because I know the roads well and can make a nice scenic route for people.”
Chaki said the Young Survival Coalition was created because most of the programs aiding those with breast cancer were geared toward older women.
“They realized how many young women have the disease,” he said. “A lot of stuff was geared for different generations."
“The coalition targets itself toward younger women and some of the issues they have to deal with, the personal and psychological issues that come up,” he added.
Chaki said he creates the route to have some provenance, going past the Basilone statue to the Nevius Street Bridge, which is the oldest double truss bridge in the state.
And the castle near the bridge, Chaki said, was built by James Duke as an exact replica of an Irish castle.
“When he and his wife went to Ireland on their honeymoon, she fell in love with the castle, so they had it replicated,” he said. “The background is so nice, they were on the bridge with the river in the background.”
Chaki said there were about 140 riders participating this year.
“It’s wonderful to be able to take people through where I grew up,” he said. “It means a lot to show some of the nice roadways and the ambiance.”
Brookner said the route for the ride is always different. But it was exciting, he said, to be in Bridgewater.
“The ride and the charity it supports are always uplifting, but it’s a little bit extra special when we travel on familiar roads,” he said.
For Kelly-Anne Megara, of Raritan, the ride was amazing, not just because they rode through town, but because she exceeded all her fundraising goals.
“Personally, (my wife Terri) and I raised over $4,000,” she said of her third ride this year. “Our team raised easily $25,000, and there is still money coming in.”
Megara rides with Team Pleva, named after the captain, who was a founding member of the Young Survival Coalition and a breast cancer survivor herself.
Megara said that 13,000 women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. The organization works with women all around the world, with financial assistance, counseling, networking with other women, education, fertility issues and treatment options.
“It was nice as a resident to feel that we’re bringing awareness to our cause because a lot of people in the area are unaware of our cause,” she said of the organization that is geared toward pre-menopausal women dealing with breast cancer. “We have gone to get sponsorships, and people didn’t even know the organization existed.”
Lerner said the ride this year was fantastic and inspiring.
“Even though I’ve ridden in a bunch of them, I come away each time invigorated,” he said. “It’s especially exciting when the route takes us through Bridgewater and Raritan.”
“We have riders come from Florida, California and other parts of the country, and this time I even rode with riders from Vietnam and Poland,” he added. “Getting the chance to show off my hometown and tell them about our true local hero John Basilone as we passed the statue on Old York Road was great.”
For more information and how to contribute, visit the Young Survival Coalition at youngsurvival.org.