MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Amidst the volleyball and surfers, hundreds of people converged on the Manhattan Beach Pier on Sunday morning for a different kind of ride: a stationary bike ride.
In the inaugural Tour de Pier event, supporters turned out to ride spin bikes on the pier in an effort to raise money for cancer. The event, the brainchild of the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, was unlike any other. Supporters came out in droves and rode in teams, with many of them riding in honor of a loved one who battled some form of cancer, riding spin bikes while instructors from local studio FitOn as well as several professional athletes guided them.
A stationary path, yes, but riders gained significant ground on the fight against a disease that ultimately touches everyone. The event, which partnered with the Hirshberg and Livestrong foundations, the Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach and the Friendship Circle of the South Bay, exceeded the initial goal of $250,000 by more than $50K.
“It’s remarkable for a first-year event,” said Lisa Manheim, the executive director of the Hirshberg Foundation and the event’s co-founder. “There’s been a great collaborative effort among the charities and the board.”
Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart, beach volleyball great Kerri Walsh and former NBA player Jon Barry were just a few of the local athletes that came out in support of the event. Each rider had their own story of cancer effected them, making participation that much more personal.
For Heather Petri, a four-time Olympic water polo player, it was about returning the support she was given by her aunt.
“She never failed to come out. She had a bone marrow transplant and was in a wheel chair and she still showed up at the pool deck to support me,” Petri said. “Now that I have a little more time, I can go out and give back at these events and support people who are fighting for their lives.”
The event served another purpose, a more preventative effort. The promotion of an active and healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of both the Livestrong and Hirshberg foundations. And while no one is immune to devastating disease, the event’s supporters made it clear that health and fitness play a key role in the prevention and even in the recovery.
Eric Shanteau is living proof. The swimmer who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games only weeks after receiving a diagnosis of testicular cancer worked with the Livestrong Foundation during his treatment. It was then that he realized how integral it was to his treatment and recovery and feels that events like the Tour de Pier help raise awareness for an aspect of the cause that is equally as important as any other.
“Unfortunately and fortunately, I’ve got background in both: I’m a cancer survivor myself and I’m an Olympian,” Shanteau said. “Going through my cancer, it was very beneficial for me to be in great shape. I was able to recover the way I did and go back to my sport the way I did because of the training that I had and because of my physical condition. The doctors told me that every week.”
Cancer’s reach is far-ranging; no one is too far away. But the Tour de Pier and the charities that made it possible is hoping that it can lessen that reach one ride at a time.