If you were driving through the west side of Williams County on Saturday, August 3 then it was likely you encountered a good number of people on bicycles. If you wondered where all those bike riders were coming from or where they were going, they were on a journey to give much needed assistance to cancer patients within Williams County. Devin Payne, a local cancer survivor, explained how much that help means when she tearfully expressed her thanks to Cancer Assistance of Williams County by saying that “I would have never been able to get all the help I needed without them.”
Payne, who has now been clear of cervical cancer for six months, had no insurance to help cover the costs of the needed treatments and surgeries. Not only did Cancer Assistance of Williams County step in to help with that, however, they also provided Payne and her family the emotional support they needed to overcome the obstacles they faced. As husband Jason struggled to both be at his wife’s side and provide the family financial support and sister Racheal worked to stand by both her sister and her own husband, Andrew’s, side during his own illness, the whole family found themselves just needing a friend to turn to. Nancy Johnson became that friend that the entire family could rely on for emotional support, and sound advice.
The cyclists that showed up at the Williams County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon were there to help Cancer Assistance of Williams County continue to raise money for people such as Devin and many others who have fought, are currently fighting, or will fight any of the various types of cancer that can inflict anyone at any time. As volunteer and survivor Mary Weirich explained, “there are a lot of different cancers out there and they don’t announce themselves before they just show up.” Weirich, like many other of Johnson and Cancer Assistance of Williams County is grateful to both the staff that helps them know all of the options available to them as well as the riders who come out to help raise the needed funds.
This year, riders with ages ranging from five to seventy-five chose the distance that was right for them and then donated the appropriate matching funds Cancer Assistance of Williams County. Riders who signed up for the ride were given the option of riding a 50, 25, 8-10, or 3 mile path to help raise funds. It is estimated that approximately $15,000 was raised by the event this year thanks to riders of varying abilities who came out to show their support.
Entry fees were able to be paid in sponsored donations and t-shirts were given for those raising $25 or more. There were also opportunities to win prizes from 58 sponsored vendors. Among those was a new bike donated from Colbart’s Bicycle Shop.
It had been the hope that the William’s County Historical Museum would be able to display their high wheel bike during the event. That one, unfortunately, was bolted solidly to the floor. Attendees were still able to get a look at another one of the museum’s antique bikes.
Sixth year B2tB committee member also coordinated an early lunch prepared by the Lions Club and snacks provided from area vendors. The 50 mile route started bright and early at 7:00 and went from the fairgrounds, out through Montpelier down to County Road 2. Saint Joseph Catholic Church served as a halfway point for riders to get needed water and a break. The bikers then continued south to County Road E.75 heading east and down to Melbern, with another stop at the United Methodist Church before heading east back to the Fairgrounds. Leading the pack of twenty-seven 50 mile riders were Mick Poncsak, Josh Kugler, and Randy Houser.
The 25 mile route riders started their journey at 7:30 a.m. and traveled along the St. Joe River Wildlife Area en route to St. Joe’s church in Blakeslee before looping back further east to County Road 12 where they headed back north towards the Fairgrounds. Leading the pack of thirty-five 25 mile riders were Sunto Panyasiri, Wilfred Brown, and Nate Thompson.
The 8-10 mile ride, also known as “Mussels on the Move” to recognize the protected wetland on County Road 12. The half way for the route was the West Bethesda Presbyterian Church on County Roads 12 and I. To add more miles, riders had the option to turn right on County Road J and then turn around at the Williams County Coon Hunters Lodge or to turn left and go to George Bible Park. Riders were also given the option to do both and ride 12 miles.
The 3 mile route was designed to stay with safety in mind with routes, which included a few “challenges” to make the experience more memorable for little ones, that were set up within the Fairgrounds.
Devin Payne and her family walked the three mile route. While Devin has been cancer free for the last six months she, like many others at the Fairgrounds that day, feels that it is important to “pay forward” the help that was given to them. Aside from walking the three mile route, Devin and her family are also brainstorming for other ideas to help Cancer Assistance of Williams County earn more funds to help others like Devin herself. It is Devin’s goal that her family alone will raise $5,000 over the next year. Her sister Racheal has focused her part of that goal on reaching out to neighboring communities in hopes that more will come to lend a hand.
Not only were the riders at Saturdays Bike to the Bridge event from a variety of age groups and skill levels, some also came from well outside of Williams County to lend a hand. The Norfolk-Southern train station out of Fort Wayne, Indiana, had a team of several riders show up to ride as part of the company’s Well-NS program. The program allows for any employee to participate in any health and wellness related event with the company matching what the employees themselves are able to raise. It is programs such as Well-NS as well as reaching out to outlying counties that Rachel hopes will help keep the annual Bike to the Bridge event and all that Cancer Assistance of Williams County growing.
All of the funds raised by Cancer Assistance of Williams County stay within the county and the B2tB even has been the main fundraising event for the group since 2001. Funds raised from the event go to the Client Financial Assistance Program. “There are other cancer organizations that raise money for awareness, survivorship, and research. That is their niche; ours is to provide direct individual help for the cancer patient that lives in Williams County. that is why the ‘Bridge’ event is so important to our sustainability.”
More information on the Cancer Assistance of Williams program is available online at www.cancerbridge.org or on their Facebook page; Cancer Assistance of Williams County.
Chelsie Firestone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org