NAPLES — The Howard family rode their bikes on Sunday morning in loving memory of their mother and grandmother, Ruth Yag, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 2001.
“We came out to support the cause because my mother passed away from cancer,” said Cyndi Yag-Howard, who rode the 10.3-mile route with her three children in a bike ride and walk hosted jointly by the Cancer Alliance of Naples (CAN) and the Naples Pathways Coalition (NPC) at Gulfview Middle School.
“Ten days after our last child was born, she passed away, so we’re supporting the cancer cause and also the Naples Pathways (Coalition) because we hope that we can have more pathways for the Naples area,” said Yag-Howard, a local dermatologist who frequently treats skin cancer.
CAN and NPC teamed up on Sunday to host the bike ride and 1.2-mile walk to raise money for both organizations. This was the sixth year that CAN has hosted a bike ride and walk to raise money for their cause, but the NPC has only participated in the event for three out of the six years.
The Cancer Alliance of Naples is a grassroots, charitable organization that is devoted to improving the quality of life of local individuals and families affected by cancer. The nonprofit provides need-based financial assistance, information resources and links to services and support groups in the community.
“We had, I want to say, between 180 to 200 people out here, which is double what we had last year,” said Sean Nolan, a CAN board member who helped organize the event. All the money raised by CAN will help Collier County and southern Lee County residents who are being treated for cancer and have financial needs.
“We help pay for their rent, their gas, their groceries (or) whatever kind of expense they might need because there’s no insurance that covers any of that,” Nolan said. “Since they spend so much money on chemotherapy and then being out of work, they have a great need for a lot of those things.”
Naples Pathways Coalition is a nonprofit group that advocates and lobbies for a fully integrated transportation network of sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use pathways in Collier County for all non-motorized transportation users.
“Whenever there’s something cycling or pedestrian related, NPC wants to be involved and to help because promoting pathways is good for cyclists and walkers,” said Michelle Avola, NPC’s executive director. “The Cancer Alliance is helping people right here in town, which makes it that much closer to our hearts too.”
Members of the Kids Cancer Alliance of Naples — which is affiliated with CAN — were also helping out with the event. Kids CAN raises money for college scholarships for local high school seniors who are battling cancer or who have a family member who is battling cancer.
“If the kid has cancer we’ll help the parents out because one of the things that you learn really fast is that if somebody in your family has cancer you’re all dealing with it because the college funds are wiped out, savings are wiped out and these kinds of things,” said Marianne Larimer, executive director of CAN. “Anybody who has cancer, your whole family is suffering and dealing with it.”
Gwen Hooley, a senior at Naples High School and president of Kids CAN, helped organize the event on Saturday.
“I like to help people, and I want to be a doctor,” Hooley said of her decision to get involved in Kids CAN. “So I thought it would be nice to help kids with cancer and get involved that way.”
Depending on their endurance and level of ambition, cyclists had the option of riding 10, 25, 62 or 100 miles. The walk and all the bike rides started and ended at Gulfview Middle School. All the different routes were marked, and several rest stops were set up along the routes. The entry fee was $25 for participants who registered early and $40 for those who registered the day of the event. Both breakfast and lunch was provided for the participants.
“I love to ride, and it’s a good cause,” Georgia Wood said of both CAN and NPC. “Anything that you can do to help support and bring an end to cancer, I’m willing and I want to do it.”
Wood, who is the treasurer for the NPC, rode the 25-mile route on Sunday. “It was wonderful, perfect,” Wood said of her bike ride. “I’m alive and out here. The sun is shining. It’s beautiful. What’s not to love?”
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E-mail Sarah Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org