Padres Pedal the Cause marks 10 years of fundraising for cancer research
Despite having surgery about a month ago for a rare form of ovarian cancer, 18-year-old Natalie Licosati had bright eyes during Padres Pedal the Cause, an annual bike ride and fundraiser. funds for cancer research.
The teenager, a high school student, was diagnosed in October. Her family has helped keep her positive over the past few months, but she was looking forward to meeting new people – a new community – at the weekend event.
Licosati and her family were among more than 3,000 participants who flooded downtown San Diego to ride bikes, walk and cheer on teams raising money for cancer research.
Pedal the Cause is a day that brings together San Diegans fighting cancer and scientists searching for a cure, organizers said. Curebound, a local nonprofit organization, hosts the annual event to raise funds for collaborative cancer research in San Diego County. The organization funds grants that go directly to local researchers and scientists working to eradicate the disease.
Licosati’s white jersey featured his and his family’s team name, Bill’s Angels, on the back.
Bill Koman, a cancer survivor, and his wife Amy Koman co-founded the event ten years ago. There were just under 1,000 participants that first year.
Since then, the event has tripled in size, she said, and has raised $18.2 million over the past decade for cancer research.
Amy Koman said cancer is a problem that affects everyone, and she and her husband hope the event continues to grow. On Saturday, there were over 100 Bill’s Angels.
On Saturday, runners of all ages strolled through Petco Park as live music blared in Gallagher Square. Some were pushing bikes, and others carried posters with bright words of encouragement. Beneath the Bumble Bee Seafoods building was a wall where people used colored markers to complete the phrase “I ride for” with the name of someone affected by cancer.
Once the races began, attendees had the rare opportunity to ride bikes across the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge without having to race cars. Early in the morning the bridge was closed for cyclists on the 75, 55 and 25 mile bike rides.
More than $2.3 million has been raised this year, which will likely exceed last year’s fundraising, said Anne Marbarger, CEO of Curebound. The Pedal the Cause fundraiser continues a month after Saturday’s festivities.
Marbarger said a unique feature of her organization’s grants is that they require collaboration between research institutions. Curebound awards three types of grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million to advance critical cancer research from the idea phase to a clinical solution.
“It’s very difficult for scientists to get early-stage funding for innovative ideas,” she said. “This organization is all about San Diego and the fundraising comes from San Diego, (and) it gets reinvested into our scientists here in this community.”
The money raised will be channeled to six partner institutions: UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys, Rady Children’s Hospital, La Jolla Institute for Immunology and Scripps Research.
Dr. Joseph Califano III, director of the Moores Cancer Center, said the money not only encourages collaboration, but meets researchers at a critical time in the cancer drug development process. For example, money from Curebound has enabled researchers at Moores Cancer Center’s Advanced Cell Therapy Laboratory to create anti-cancer cell therapies that are currently being used to treat patients.
“There are large clinical trials for drugs that have already been developed by pharmaceutical companies,” he said. “They kind of already know their winners… And so, it’s really helpful to have an organization like this that allows us to try our luck with these new therapies.”
After two and a half hours of racing in the 25-mile race, the Licosatis jumped off their e-bikes and huddled for a group photo in Petco Park’s outfield.
Janie Licosati said her daughter rode and spoke with a woman who had survived cancer the entire ride.
“The personal aspect of it all was that this village came together to help each other,” she said. “Yeah, it may be about Natalie for the next 30 seconds, but it’s always about someone and that sense of community and…and coming together to ride.”
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