Monday, October 11, 2010

Cancer Organizer in Hospital as Cyclists Ride

Yesterday about 50 cyclists took to the roads to raise money for cancer research while in strange twist of fate, the leader and organizer of the event lay in the hospital with a spinal injury that he sustained while riding the same route only a week ago.

Pic: the group before the send off: and a facsimile of a contribution to the cause. (c) Benepe.

Two other bicycle accidents occurred during the actual event on Sunday, though in both cases the cyclists were not seriously injured.

Kenneth Youner organized the Spokes of Hope ride that took riders some 40 miles through northern New Jersey and New York City on Sunday with a message to help fund research that will cure cancer.

Meanwhile Youner lay in the intensive care unit of Hackensack Hospital, the first stop along the cyclists' route, with a damaged spine that he sustained when he ran over a loose twig that lodged in his wheel and caused him to fall.  The accident occurred at a spot that was along the same route to the hospital from Englewood.
BBB rode to the gathering spot at 8 am on Sunday, freezing practically to death bombing down Booth Avenue to Englewood Hospital in Englewood.  Other cyclists stood shivering in the early morning cold that soon became a day filled with sunshine and good spirits.

A hospital dog listens carefully to the speech by Dr. Forte. (c) Benepe

Youner's wife Cecile died of cancer in November 2008, but even before her death, the couple had started the Cecile and Ken Youner Cancer Foundation to raise funds for cancer research.

In a brief interview with Ken before his accident last week, he told BBB that the group gives money to doctors whom he believes are on the breaking edge of cancer research.
Below: registering for the event.
One of those beneficiaries, Dr. Francis Forte, was present at the parking lot to send off cyclists. Forte said he was involved in research in the use of a vaccine that could eliminate cancer in 72 hours.

That vaccine has already been through a mice-efficacy phase, but was now ready to be tested on humans who have been diagnosed with incurable cancer, but are strong enough to withstand a new treatment.

Bill Kennedy and his wife Diana Kennedy of Udderly Smooth, one of the event's sponsors handed out Cliff bars and samples of their skin moisturizers outside their truck which had been painted white and black to look like a giant cow.

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson who came to give a send off to the cyclists said he supports the foundation because, "I feel cancer can be cured with the right funding." Johnson's mother had breast cancer at age of 94, and he gets himself checked every year, he noted.

Pic: Nate Morgenstern who led the ride (c) Benepe

Nate Morgenstern, a friend of Youner's who had mapped the ride led the group at a quick "B" pace along the back roads from Englewood to Hackensack, a ride made all the more safe and pleasant by the presence of Englewood Police Officer Ronald Kalomeris who sped to intersections ahead of the group to block traffic.

Kalomeris who is a bike instructor in the Englewood PD said he was a rider last year in the Spokes of Hope ride.  As we passed through the intersections feeling safe and protected, cyclists called out their thanks to Kalomeris.
It was sheer joy to ride through those same intersections that I have driven in a car, and to learn how quickly and easily we reached Hackensack by bike. It pointed to the need, parenthetically, for safe bike lanes which at this time, do not exist on this route.

Dr. Forte speaks while Jason Youner, Youner's son, videotapes in the Englewood Hospital parking lot (c) Benepe.

We were greeted by the staff at Englewood hospital with water and more Cliff Bars. Dr. Michael Harris, head of the oncology unit for pediatrics and Dr. Anthony Mato, member of the Lymphoma Division were there to give a cancer pep talk.  The doctors joined Morgenstern in a trip upstairs to the ICU to report the success of the ride to Youner.

Deb Gemmell had traveled all the way from Waterloo, Ontario Canada with her husband Jonathan Pearce to attend the ride. A breast and lymphodemia cancer survivor, Gemmell said she was here "to support Dr. Youner."

Gemmell and Pearce before the start of the ride (c) Benepe

Because of her cancer, Gemmell is unable to lean forward on a regular bike, and uses a recumbent bike with an electric assist motor mounted in the back for steep hills.

Also among us was 13-year-old Andrew Gates who rode his skateboard effusively and with great strokes of energy around and through the much older cyclists. "He's going to beat us there," said one.

As we turned back towards Englewood, and then Manhattan, cyclists joked that they were going to lasso themselves to the back of Gemmell's bike once we reached the steep and unrelenting hill that would take us from Englewood to Route 9W.

A few deer jumping across the road gave us some nice suburban competition. The group then took the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River to the west side Greenway, and proceeded down to Mt. Sinai on the upper east side in Manhattan. After returning to Englewood, those who made a donation of $120 were treated to a kosher meal at the Youner household.

As of press time, still no word on whether Youner is still in intensive care, nor of his medium term prognosis.

More pics posted on Flickr.


Bulldog said...

A great ride!

hector said...

Great post! Really a memorable ride for you guys! Nice job!