Pelotonia 15 Was Another Record-Breaking Year!
By Steven Wartenberg
I think Sheryl Crow is now officially one of us.
She seemed just as caught up as we were in the adrenaline rush of thousands of people coming together to celebrate raising $23,659,675 this year and $106,055,015 since 2009, all for one goal.
Sheryl stepped on stage in front of her new Pelotonia pals at The Schott Wednesday night during our Check Celebration, and then launched into a very soulful and heartfelt rendition of The First Cut is the Deepest.
In other words: It was an amazing night.
“And we’re truly just getting started,” Dan Rosenthal, Pelotonia’s board chairman, told the jubilant crowd of about 8,000 during the ceremony. “One day we’ll come together to celebrate raising $100 million in a single year.”
At first I thought, “$100 million in one year? Really?” But,then again, while Dan’s dream sounds pretty aspirational, think back to 2009 and how far we’ve come in so few years. I think Dan just might be on to something.
Or, as Mike Caligiuri said: “Anything is possible.”
My Pelotonia day began at about 3 p.m., at The James, when I tagged along as Sheryl went on a tour. As she has such a big voice and powerful presence on stage, I was surprised Sheryl was so petite.
“(The new James) opened in December, which coincided with Doug’s arrival,” Dr. Ted Teknos said, referencing Doug Ulman, Pelotonia’s CEO/President.
“He did tell me you built a brand-new hospital just for him,” Sheryl said with a sly smile.
A few minutes later, Sheryl lamented that she hadn’t brought her guitar along on the tour. “We’ll play in the lobbies, we’ll go to the rooms,” she said.
She did pay a surprise visit to Pelotonia Rider Robert Scherer, who was a patient in The James and disappointed he wasn’t able to attend the Check Celebration.
The personal visit brought a giant smile to his face.
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“I’m so sad I don’t have my guitar,” Sheryl told Robert and then gave him a hug and posed for some photos with the family.
The doors of The Schott opened at 6 p.m. and a steady stream of Pelotonia people filed in. Marissa and William Dessert headed over to the area where guests could write notes to patients at The James. This area was hosted by Lifestyles Communities.
“My boss is here, at The James, and got a stem cell transplant today,” Marissa said after she wrote a note.
“I think when you get a letter of encouragement, even from a complete stranger, it allows you to keep going and keep smiling,” William added.
Tracey Gerber struck a pose at the Selfie Station, holding the I’m In For 2016 sign. “I ride every year for my mom, who is battling esophageal cancer,” she said.
In seven years, 19,749 Riders have ridden 3,013,665 miles. We’ve received more than 450,000 individual donations.
These numbers are truly amazing, but what’s even more impressive is the passion, Doug said. “Numbers can’t even come close to describing the individuals we ride for.”
Our message is clear, Mike Caligiuri told everyone: “We are committed to ride and raise until this dreaded disease is behind us.”
After the new Pelotonia video was shown, which displayed our 2015 and cumulative fundraising numbers, Sheryl took the stage. The Schott went dark, illuminated by thousands of Pelotonia-green glow necklaces.
Between songs, Sheryl talked about her bout with cancer.
“In February, I’m 10 years cancer free,” she declared – and the crowd went wild. I think Sheryl felt a connection with us, and seemed comfortable talking about her breast cancer experience.
“It’s enhanced and informed my life and I now know what it means to be alive,” she said, adding that a lot of “people in this room know what I’m talking about.”
The entire party was streamed live to the 300 patients in The James. Sheryl called the doctors and researchers at The James and Comprehensive Cancer Center the “real rock stars.” Playing on stage for thousands is “cool,” she said, but “doesn’t hold a candle” to finding cures for cancer.
During Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man, Sheryl changed the lyrics to: “Are you strong enough to be my research doctor?”
“I have two small children, so I have to believe our best days are ahead of us,” Sheryl said, which pretty much sums up why we ride.
See, it sure does sound like Sheryl is one of us. Welcome aboard.
Steve Wartenberg is a journalist, cyclist and longtime Pelotonia Rider. Steve is one of just a handful who have pedalled every mile of every Pelotonia. This year he is going above and beyond his fundraising efforts as a High Roller! firstname.lastname@example.org