This September, Barrington dad, grandfather, cancer survivor and avid cyclist, Bob Lee, will hop on his bike in Vancouver, Canada and ride 2,000 miles down the west coast, ending in Mexico. Bob’s journey will be the third in a series of long distance rides, crossing a total of more than 12,000 miles and completing a philanthropic tour around the perimeter of the country.
At the end of Bob’s 2012 ride, he hopes to have raised $1 million for 3 causes before “The Bike Stops” on his family’s front lawn in Barrington’s Fox Point neighborhood. That’s where he recently celebrated his 70th birthday along with dozens of neighbors and kids who rode there on, what else? Their bikes!
As if completing a 2,000 mile bike ride just after turning 70 isn’t remarkable enough, Bob will finish Part III of his “Ride for 3 Reasons” almost a decade after he was diagnosed with colon cancer. This summer also marks Bob’s wife, Anne Lee’s second year as a breast-cancer survivor. Facing cancer sparked a fire that Bob says is a major source of his pedal power. “If someone hadn’t done a walk or run or some fundraiser, would the research dollars have been there to give us this opportunity? This is our way of paying back a little bit. I’m hoping to raise the funds to give researchers the resources to help other people.”
Supporting people with cancer is just one of Bob Lee’s 3 reasons. He is also riding to help those diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and for people needing hospice care at the end of life. “My toughest day going up over a mountain is nothing compared to someone getting up this morning with ALS and wondering what motor neurons aren’t going to work today and whether they’ll be able to pick things up, hug their kids, walk or talk.” These are causes that have touched us all, in big ways and in small. And that’s why we’re invited to celebrate Bob’s upcoming journey with Rock the Ride, a 9-hour music festival and party happening at the Brat Tent in Barrington’s North Metra Lot between 1 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday, July 1st.
The six local bands performing at the fest are The Road Not Taken (1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.), White Shadow (3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.), Moonlander (4:30 to 5:15 p.m.), Vinyl Richie (6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.), The Guys (7:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.) and Between the Lines (9 p.m. to 10 p.m.). There will also be Bataille Academie dance performances and activities for kids during the day. Admission is $5 for adults after 6 p.m. and 100% of the proceeds will benefit Bob’s ride and put even more power in his pedals as he crosses the finish line before returning home by Thanksgiving.
Bob’s 3 rides for 3 reasons span 3 countries and involve volunteers from 3 generations working for the cause. The easiest way to visualize the ground he will have covered is to see it on the map…
In 2001, Bob rode 3,200 miles across the southern border of the United States, from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida, raising $86,000 with 287 donors. Bob says Mitch Albom’s novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, inspired this initial ride.
In 2007, after his cancer diagnosis and recovery, Bob rode 6,500 miles from Jacksonville, Florida to Bar Harbor, Maine. He then flew to Seattle and biked from Anacortes, Washington back to Bar Harbor. During this second ride he raised $390,000 with 1,500 donors.
This September, Bob’s ride will complete the western portion of the country’s perimeter. With this third ride alone, he hopes to raise $1 million with at least 3,000 donors. He’s lined up a list of “pacesetters” or donors prepared to contribute $2 for each dollar donated by the general public. That means a $100 donation will become a $300 gain for the cause.
It’s an ambitious plan, but Bob’s wife, Anne Lee, is his strongest supporter. They met in 1961, their first week as students at DePauw University, and married two weeks after graduation in 1965. “We’ve been a team since 1961 and I’m totally 100% behind him and I know that he’ll adapt to the challenges of each day.”
When I asked Anne if she has any nerves about Bob’s ride this time around she said, “Yes. It’s a different feeling this time because of the challenges that aging brings, but I have total confidence that he will approach this ride with a good, level head. I’ve never known Bob to not do exactly what he says he’s going to do.”
And Bob says there’s no doubt he’ll be ready to roll this September, with the support of the community, his family and his proud grandchildren, the team that helped Bob assemble his new bike on his 70th birthday. “Are they going to remember how Bob ran a business? No. They’re going to remember me doing something for others. That’s much more important.”
All money Bob raises will be equally shared by the American Cancer Society, the ALS Les Turner Foundation and Hospice Foundation of Northeastern Illinois.