SUMMIT, NJ — In 2007, Livingston native Jennifer Goodman Linn’s mission to help fund rare-cancer research through an indoor-cycling fundraiser attracted 50 riders and raised $200,000. Ten years later, after losing her own battle with cancer, Linn’s fundraising event Cycle for Survival (CFS) has become a national movement with more than 26,000 riders in 21 Equinox clubs throughout the country and is expected to eclipse a ten-year total of $100 million by April 2016.
Cycle for Survival, which contributes 100 percent of every dollar raised to rare-cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), held one of its 21 events at the Summit Equinox on Saturday. According to Sandy Goodman, Jennifer’s mother, the 10th Anniversary Cycle for Survival in Summit was expected to exceed 1500 participants, including a handful of “Decade Riders,” who rode for their 10th consecutive year this weekend.
Jeanne Silberman, a Decade Rider who is the captain of Team JENesis and one of the leading fundraisers for the cause, announced midday that Cycle for Survival had already raised more than $12 million by noon on Saturday.
“When Cycle for Survival was conceived, Jennifer made sure it wasn’t all about her, but about all of the people who are suffering like she was,” said Jennifer’s father, Len Goodman, who said CFS is less about writing a check and more about letting cancer patients and survivors know that they are not fighting alone. “Jennifer believed in the human spirit and that one person with the will to do it could change the world. Certainly she did that, but all of you are doing so as well.”
Echoing Len’s message, Jennifer’s husband, David Linn, said that one of the most satisfying parts of the event each year is seeing it bring people together. According to the stories David hears throughout the events, Cycle for Survival develops a sense of hope for people who have lost loved ones or who have been effected by cancer as well as the doctors, caretakers and researchers who are working toward finding a cure.
“It started with Jen and I, but what’s amazing is that so many people are riding for their own Jen in their lives,” said David. “In many ways Cycle for Survival captures her spirit: the feeling of hope that she had no matter what she was going through. What they’ve done is infused that spirit of Jen and brought it to life through Cycle for Survival.”
David said that if Jen were alive to see what her vision has become, she would insist that those involved should continue to dream in order to make progress on the research front.
According to David, every Cycle for Survival story touches his heart, but none so much as the ones from Livingston, where Jennifer was raised and where rare cancers have impacted a number of families. Some familiar faces at Cycle for Survival this year included Decade Rider Martha Ackermann, Livingston Board of Education member and cancer survivor Pamela Chirls, Gallite and Josh Kestler, who ride for their son, Jake, Mayor Alfred Anthony, and former mayors Rudy Fernandez, Michael Rieber and Michael Silverman.
“A number of people come up to me and say that they have looked to Jen for inspiration when they’re going through tough times,” said David, who also said that many patients and survivors consistently tell him that Cycle for Survival is their favorite day of the year because of the hope it portrays and the progress being made in research because of it. “It breaks my heart that Jen’s not here to see it, but it warms my heart to see people that she’s inspired doing so well.”
Len and Sandy Goodman said that by continuously funding research for rare cancers like the one their daughter had, CFS is making the difference between telling cancer patients there is nothing that can be done and telling them that one day there will be a cure.
In fact, Dr. Ross L. Levine, a MSKCC leukemia researcher who told participants exactly what money raised goes toward, said that researchers have made more headway in cancer research and care in recent years than they have in three decades thanks to collaborative efforts like Cycle for Survival. Speaking on behalf of MSK Cancer Center, Levine thanked everyone involved in the movement for keeping their hopes up and for motivating more and more people to take the risks and ask the innovative questions needed to discover new treatments.
“We’re all already working together, whether we’re raising money or riding or collaborating in laboratories and care centers,” said Levine, who said researchers have already found some exciting new therapies for leukemia, which will lead to even more successes that he is confident will be ready to announce a year from now. “Cycle for Survival was there before anyone else and the beauty of Cycle for Survival is that this kind of support lets us be opportunistic.”
Equinox Chief Operating Officer (COO) Scott Rosen, who was the first person to say yes to Jennifer when she came along with the idea, said he was thrilled to celebrate Cycle for Survival’s 10th Anniversary and to see how far the event has come in that time. He thanked participating doctors, nurses, patients, survivors, caretakers, and the family and friends of those affected for contributing to the cause “one bike at a time, one song at a time, one donation at a time.”
“Ten years later, Cycle for Survival is what we do at Equinox: from our corporate team, our managers, our maintenance team and especially our group fitness instructors,” said Rosen. “Most importantly, I’d like to thank the heroes of this battles: the doctors, scientists, nurses and everyone else at Memorial Sloan Kettering. These guys are so committed, so determined and so driven to finding the cures.”