Editor's Note: Article was updated on Feb. 9 at 3:14 to reflect amount of monies raised.
LIVINGSTON, NJ — In 2007, Livingston resident Jennifer Goodman Linn unknowingly began what is now the fastest-growing athletic fundraiser in the country, raising funds for rare cancers like the one that eventually took her life in 2012. Nine years later, the national movement has raised more than $63 million, with $11.4 million and counting raised this year alone, toward research and clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).
Last year over $20 million dollars was raised. All of the money was dispersed within six months, with some allocations going to pediatric cancers; sequencing rare tumors; clinical trials; genomic Initiatives; study of microbes, inflammation, and cancer; Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology; and to the Jennifer Goodman Linn Laboratory of New Drug Development in Sarcoma and Rare Cancers.
“Garden State New Jersey—we really know how to make things grow,” said Sandy Goodman, Linn's mom. “As of this morning [Feb. 9], over $1 million dollars has been recorded for the Summit event and funds are still pouring in. And speaking of growing, with great pride we watched our grandsons, Ben and Shaun, cycle and fundraise with us this year—in memory of their treasured Aunt Jen.”
“Jen is probably watching, giggling, and thinking we should work harder,” said Goodman, in a 2015 donation email.
This year, between Feb. 7 and 8, top indoor-cycling instructors from Cycle for Survival’s founding partner Equinox led more than 20,000 riders in 13 U.S. cities in all-day, family-friendly cycling events. Since rare cancer research is typically underfunded, Cycle for Survival has provided urgently needed funding since its inception in 2007.
On Feb. 7, more than 1100 local cancer patients, survivors, doctors and supporters gathered at the Summit, NJ Equinox for the annual Cycle for Survival indoor team-cycling event.
“It is an honor for us to host Cycle for Survival for its ninth year,” Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan said. “We already see the awesome results of our sweat, tears, hope and tireless fundraising efforts.”
Among some of the local teams that participated in the Summit event were the West Orange Fire Department (WOFD), the West Essex YMCA, Livingston Lancer Cheerleaders, Livingston Former Mayors, and many more.
For WOFD Team Captain and MSK Cancer patient Fred Kingston, this was his fourth Cycle for Survival event. Kingston was still undergoing chemotherapy for the colon cancer that spread to his liver in Nov. 2014 when he rode. He said he vowed to get the Fire Department involved back in 2013 because firefighters statistically have had higher cancer rates than the general public, and his brothers did not disappoint. The 19 officers on the 2015 WOFD Team came through raising more than $12,000 for the cause.
“I ride to help find a cure so that someday we can all ride to celebrate that cure,” Kingston said. “The fire service is what we call a brotherhood. Their involvement in Cycle for Survival means a lot to me and illustrates what our brotherhood is about.”
“As a department, the Fire Fighters from West Orange get involved with many charities, but Cycle for Survival is personal to me for several reasons,” Kingston added. “It was a perfect fit for my department, and I was excited to get everyone involved.”
When Kingston was initially diagnosed in 2011, he was extremely touched by Cycle for Survival founder Jennifer Goodman Linn’s own inspirational story. Linn passed away in 2012, but her spirit lives on through the monstrous event that unites hundreds of thousands in cities across the country each year.
“The Goodmans are amazing—they have a lot of passion for what they started,” Kingston said of Linn’s parents, who unfailingly support their daughter’s legacy. “I think they’re loving every second of seeing her work pay off.”
One of the most crucial components of Cycle for Survival that sets it apart from every other cancer fundraiser is that 100 percent of proceeds goes directly to MSK research on rare cancers, and not a penny less. According to the National Institute of Health, a rare cancer is one with a prevalence of fewer than 200,000 affected individuals in the United States. Diseases defined as "rare cancers" include brain, pancreatic, thyroid and stomach cancers; leukemia and lymphoma; all pediatric cancers, and others. More than half the people diagnosed with cancer have a rare form of the disease.
“I love that I actually get to see that the money raised goes directly to making a difference in the lives of others,” said Livingston’s Admit U College Counselor Melanie Talesnick. “Cycle for Survival is truly one of the most inspiring events I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of.”
Like so many others, Talesnick, whose team raised over $43,000, rides for those who can’t including Brielle Namer, who battled Ewing’s sarcoma before passing away on March 5th, 2008. Talesnick said that too many have either lost someone, or know someone who is fighting for his or her life, and Cycle for Survival is a “flawless event that gets the funds directly to the people who need it.”
“If I can make a small impact, I am proud to be a part of this incredible, inspirational organization,” Talesnick said. “That is my battle cry.”
It is riders like Talesnick and Kingston who prove these are communities to be depended on to be supportive of friends and neighbors.
AdLipps owner Erika Lippman, also of Livingston, rode for her first time Saturday and said she was blown away by how many Livingston residents were at the event.
“Today was my first time riding in Cycle for Survival, and it had a huge impact on me,” Lippman said. “The positive vibes and energy were contagious. I felt so proud to be part of such a wonderful event that truly helps find cures and treatments for rare cancers.”