WATERLOO — Elizabeth Hart has spent the past few weeks getting back onto the bike her husband bought her for her 50th birthday.
“He biked up until about three years before his death when he wasn’t able to,” said Hart, owner of Hart’s R.V. Park and Campground. “Now, it feels a little strange (to ride) because he was the one who encouraged me. I always looked forward to coming home after a ride because he was always real interested (in hearing about the rides).”
Hart said four years ago, she was scrolling through her Facebook feed when she found out about the Great Cycle Challenge, a month-long bike ride in June that raises funds for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.
“I’m riding for my husband, but he didn’t want that,” she said of her decision to participate in this year's challenge. “He told me he wanted me to ride to show support and love for all the children facing this horrendous disease. He knew how hard cancer was for an adult. The thought that children suffered broke his heart.”
Hart knows firsthand the importance of cancer research. Not only has she lost her husband to cancer, but she lost her father to the disease when she was 7 years old. In addition, she worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as a certified pharmacy technician for over a year, so she got to experience the children and their families at the Memphis, Tennessee, hospital.
“I’m trying to draw awareness and the need for cancer research because I know only 4 percent of federal funding pertaining to research goes to children's cancer research,” Hart said. “Every dollar that I raise creates an additional $18 in federal grants.”
In hopes of getting more area residents involved, Hart created a team to compete in the Great Cycle Challenge — Team Waterloo.
“I know there are bikers in Waterloo and I know there are bikers in Florence,” she said. “I want to get them to sign up for the Great Cycle Challenge and to join Team Waterloo, because if they are going to bike, they might as well bike for something. It makes the biking a lot more relevant. It really does.”
Maria Reitan, Topsail Strategies spokeswoman for the Great Cycle Challenge, said all ages and abilities can register for the race at GreatCycleChallenge.com.
“They can ride to work or on weekends, near home or while traveling, and bikes of all types can get involved — be it recumbent, stationary, tandem, tricycle or unicycle,” Reitan said. “They can ask their family, friends, colleagues to sponsor them. They simply go to their personalized fundraising page on GreatCycleChallenge.com and make a pledge.”
Hart's personal goal is to raise $5,000. Her goal for Team Waterloo is $10,000. So far, she has raised $4,085.25.
“I am excited to start biking again,” she said. “It is a little bit harder as my husband can’t be here for me to tell him about the bike ride, but things have been going really well.
"There are a lot of good people in Waterloo, and we have a lot of good people at the Hart’s R.V. Park and Campground. We’re all kind of like one big family there. So, I have a lot of support.”