What Success Looks Like
Pelotonia participants receive more than they give
Empathy and Compassion, Collaborating as One University
July 7, 2011
“13-year cancer survivor – thank you for riding!”
“Dr. Ross, you saved my father. Thank you!”
“A James cancer patient lives here.”
These were just a few of the signs Karl Koon saw as he participated in Pelotonia, the annual cycling event that raises money to fund cancer research at the Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
That Koon, now Ohio State's Pelotonia director of development, rode in the inaugural Pelotonia in 2009 made sense based on his background in philanthropy – raising funds for a good cause was nothing new to him. But as he began that first ride, he realized that Pelotonia is about much more than dollars raised.
“What struck me immediately was that I was part of something so much bigger than getting on my bike and riding 100 miles,” Koon said. “I was part of something that was benefitting hundreds of thousands of people I will never meet.”
Koon's epiphany led him to help plan the 2010 opening ceremonies, which takes place the day before the ride. Then, when a friend contacted him this spring about coming to Ohio State to support the university's Pelotonia efforts, he didn't hesitate.
"I loved this project from the moment I started that first ride," he said. "I had an amazing job for 18 years, but I couldn't turn down the opportunity to do something new, and something that I love."
In a class of its own
Several things distinguish Pelotonia, including the fact that 100 percent of all funds raised directly support its cause - cancer research. But the sense of teamwork and camaraderie among the riders, donors, volunteers, and fans who cheer on the riders makes it an even more fulfilling experience for everyone involved.
“From the riders, virtual riders, volunteers, those who donate, and the many community members who cheer us on, we’re tens of thousands of people from far and wide, focused on one goal – finding a cure for cancer,” he said. “The energy of the riders and the many more involved is amazing. Everyone shares this moment, no matter how they contribute.”
In addition to the camaraderie of the force that is Pelotonia, Koon said the experience strengthens relationships at work. After they rode together in 2009, Koon developed a strong friendship with a colleague whom he didn’t really know prior to Pelotonia. He also said that the common cause eliminates artificial barriers that work structures and social status can create – it didn’t surprise him that he walked a hill while talking with Debra Penzone, a local businesswoman of note.
“There’s such a sense of collegiality and community, regardless of your title or profession,” he said. “You share this moment on any side of the equation.”
While Koon thought he signed up to raise money for cancer research and help others, he also gained several things for himself. He noted that, aside from knowing he is making a difference through the financial support, he gained a sense that he accomplished something for himself physically, and challenged himself with fundraising. Training for the ride can increase the amount of physical activity a rider gets, leading to improved health and reduced risk of illness. Offering resources to improve and maintain optimal health is a strong part of Ohio State's culture, and Pelotonia is one way the university encourages faculty and staff to increase their physical activity levels.
And while fundraising takes work, the teamwork and camaraderie that serves as a foundation of the event helped more than 99 percent of riders meet their fundraising goals last year, Koon said. Many pelotons raise money as a group, and riders who have surpassed their goals often transfer funds to those riders who haven’t met their goals. Many of the riders who didn't meet their fundraising goals opted to stop fundraising and make up the difference.
Koon's contagious enthusiasm has helped attract 842 Team Buckeye riders who have raised more than $300,000, but he noted there is still much recruitment work to be done with a goal of 1,500 riders and $2.5 million dollars.
"Every day, 22,000 people hear the words, 'You have cancer.' There isn’t anyone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way," Koon said. "What a gift it is to be a part something that will end that."
Pelotonia 2011 takes place August 19-21 thanks to the help of many people, including:
You can be a part of the experience; click on the links above to register. For a first-hand account of participating in Pelotonia, read the official Pelotonia blog, written by Rider Steve Wartenberg.
Team Buckeye is the Super Peloton that unites the 58 Pelotons and 830+ riders from Ohio State. Team Buckeye hopes to recruit 1,500 riders and raise $2.5 million. Find out how you can be a bart of Team Buckye, and track the team's progress on Facebook.