As Americans, we have a legacy of caring for others nationally and globally. The list covers a breadth of interests from President Abraham Lincoln, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, author Helen Keller, and astronaut John Glenn.
This July 4th I reflect on all the leaders that worked to advance others and the many Americans who may work in obscurity but want to make the world a better and healthier place. This last week as the founder of Less Cancer, I witnessed first-hand leaders who put themselves out on behalf of others for the Less Cancer bike ride "Split the Mitt." They biked from Detroit to Traverse City to raise funds for the work in education and policy for cancer prevention.
Five years ago, when Suzi Tobias wanted to commemorate her friend, Aileen O'Brien who died of breast cancer, she did so with a bike ride from Port Huron to Mackinaw City, Michigan. That first year, along with a few friends, Suzi did not just accomplish the bike ride, but also raised money for Less Cancer.
This year, and approximately 40 cyclists later, Less Cancer raised over $80,000.
Our support has grown from a single minivan and a card table to a convoy including a moving van, oversized van, pickup truck, and a couple of SUV's. We had many volunteers, including nurses, physicians, an EMT, an off-duty police officer, and a pair of moms from Rhode Island making several stops over the two-and-a-half-day ride with food, drink, a sense of humor, and many hugs.
And yes, our cyclists--who faced grueling weather at times and long distances--had infectious enthusiasm.
Upon arriving at the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City, we were met by an energetic crowd and a picnic for over 250 people, a site filled with vendors and exhibits. We were overwhelmed by their generosity, passion, and support.
Seeing the many volunteers working on behalf of Less Cancer evokes great emotion in me. I am side-by-side with people who want what I know we all want...Less Cancer.
People were doing extraordinary things that require sacrifice on behalf of others.
Our list is long of cyclists, both new and those that started with us five years ago, not accepting the status quo but rather standing up for what is good and right.
While evidence-based science and medicine must always guide the work for cancer prevention, the reality is the work around prevention bridges a critical gap as there is not one solution for cancer.
We know what is needed to stay healthy and yes prevent cancer.
Making the right choices in our own lives and communities can be difficult as sometimes we face terrific push back from entities ignoring human health and the environment.
This ride epitomizes the good we do in the world and defines us as Americans.
Anyone who was part of the trip last week deeply understood their critical role in the Less Cancer work as did the many people who took the initiative to show up and demonstrate appreciation.
On Capitol Hill each year when we assemble for National Cancer Prevention Day, the United States Congressional Cancer Prevention Caucus and the National Cancer Prevention Workshop where we as an organization through collaboration with leading experts facilitate continuing education credits for physician's, nurses, and public health professionals, helping us to advance the mission of cancer prevention. Less Cancer initiated these programs on Capitol Hill so that we could provide a voice for all Americans across the country and educate health leaders not just here in the United States but also around the globe streaming Less Cancers unique work live through the Internet.
We as an organization are at the forefront of leading communities to be healthier. While our goal is to reduce incidences of cancer we are seeing by addressing cancer prevention, it, in turn, addresses those diseases that may lead to cancer to include obesity and diabetes.
Those who help advance this cause are American heroes in every sense of the word. The Less Cancer Cyclists, volunteers, support crew, collaborators are the fiber of what America is about- love for their fellow mankind, sacrificing for those they may not know but do so for a love of humanity.
Happy 4th of July!
Bill Couzens is the Founder of Less Cancer