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$7.8M for cancer research: ‘Ecstasy’ for Pelotonia

Photo courtesy of Pelotonia

“Ecstasy — do I need to say more?”

That’s how Dr. Michael Caligiuri, director of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital, reacted to the Pelotonia bike tour raising nearly twice as much money last year as it did in 2009.

The second annual Pelotonia bike tour, which ran Aug. 21-22, raised more than $7.8 million for the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center — about a $3.3 million increase over the previous year.

Pelotonia’s sponsors covered all the event’s costs, so every dollar raised went directly to the cancer center, said Jessica Kinman, Pelotonia spokeswoman.

Pelotonia would not disclose the event’s costs.

“I truly believe that through the work of Pelotonia we will have cures to cancer sooner rather than later … because 100 percent of the money goes to over 300 researchers right here at Ohio State,” Caligiuri said.

Money raised from the event goes toward finding a cure for the disease that affects one in two men and one in three women, and scholarships that pay for students’ training in OSU’s lab of cancer sciences, he said.

The number of participants in Pelotonia nearly doubled to more than 4,000 last year from 2,265 in 2009.

Caligiuri said his goal is for Pelotonia to raise more than $10 million this summer.

He conceived the idea for Pelotonia in spring 2008, and by the next summer the program had become a reality. He said he found inspiration in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a 30-year-old annual bike tour that raises money for cancer research.

“That raises $30 million a year in a single weekend,” Caligiuri said. “That got me working immediately.”

Andrew Fast, a third-year in finance and accounting, participated in both Pelotonia events and served as the finance captain for the Pelotonia Student Team during the second tour. His team set a $100,000 goal last year and ended up raising about $175,000.

During last summer’s tour, a pickup truck struck and killed one rider, 57-year-old Michelle Kazlausky. Kinman said Pelotonia would not comment on the death but that “the route will remain similar.”

Fast said he did not think the route was dangerous and that he “felt safe the entire time.”

“It’s just one of those unfortunate one-in-a-million chances,” he said.

To participate in the summer 2011 tour, OSU students will have to raise at least $650, up from $500 the year before.

Pelotonia’s sponsors include Huntington Bank, Limited Brands Foundation, Richard and Peggy Santulli, American Electric Power Foundation, Nationwide Insurance and Chemical Abstracts Service.

Fast said he plans to continue participating in Pelotonia.

“I think they’ve got me for life,” he said. “Until we find a cure, I’ll be participating.”

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