Lowvelo bike ride bonds community, raises funds for cancer research

January 31, 2019
Lowvelo ride logo

Lowvelo is no ordinary bike ride. Rather, it’s a bold idea to pull the entire state together to raise funds for cancer research at a level that’s never been tried before in South Carolina, says Hollings Cancer Center Director Gustavo Leone, Ph.D.

The ride, which will be held November 1- 2 in the Lowcountry, will feature three routes (25, 50 or 100-miles) with riders committing to raise a minimum amount specific to the route selected. A peer-to-peer fundraising event, riders solicit donations and develop fundraising activities to reach their goals with 100 percent of rider-raised dollars funding research at Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“This will help elevate our cancer center and MUSC to new levels of health care and change the cancer landscape in our South Carolina communities. It goes to fund high-risk cancer research and accelerate making discoveries and translating those findings translated to the clinic to help patients,” Leone says.

“And, it goes beyond raising money. It’s about connecting directly to the community and raising awareness of the quality of health care at Hollings and MUSC Health, which is ranked in the top 25 cancer care institutions in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Most importantly, it involves everyone in finding cures to cancer. It affects us all, so we are all in, both in preventing and finding cures.”

In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease, accounting for approximately 1 in every 4 deaths. On average in South Carolina each year, there are more than 28,680 new cancer cases and 10,320 cancer deaths, according to the S.C. Cancer Alliance.

Leone, who has seen this type of bike ride work well at other cancer centers, says he first became a fan of this as a tool to raise funds for cancer research while he was at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. He saw their bike ride, Pelotonia, get its start in 2008, and then go on to raise a record-breaking $27.4 million last year for cancer research.

Gustavo W. Leone, Ph.D.
Dr. Gustavo Leone is director of Hollings Cancer Center and a Grace E. DeWolff Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology.

“It was a crazy idea 10 years ago. It’s not anymore, though,” he says, citing its success. The goal for Lowvelo will be to engage 1,000 riders and raise about $1.5 million in the first year. The ride is meant to be inclusive and accessible. “It’s not a race. You don’t need a fancy bike or have to be in the best shape. It’s a community experience of building partnerships to attain health and achieve the unimaginable: a cancer-free world for our kids and their kids.” 

Denis Guttridge, Ph.D., who is associate director of translational sciences for the Hollings Cancer Center, participated in Pelotonia while at Ohio State University before joining Hollings Cancer Center last year. Having seen the impact of the ride on that community and cancer center, he’s glad to see Leone bring the concept here. He’s already enrolled in Lowvelo to ride the 100-mile route, and is excited to watch the ride go viral here when it’s officially launched in February.

“It’s something that keeps building on itself,” he says of the ride’s ability to create momentum, both in raising funds for cancer research as well as tying together the community for a good cause. “You’ll see people along the sides of the road holding up their signs supporting people they know with cancer. When you’re riding and see all these people cheering you on, you just feel this amazing and empowering connection with the community. It’s this embodied experience of togetherness that really works.”

Janet Bolin, Lowvelo’s executive director, says the Charleston area is a beautiful place to host such an event and it creates a culture of health and wellness. People should stay tuned for more details about the ride’s routes and upcoming training sessions, she says.

“Lowvelo involves everyone from across South Carolina who has been or is dealing with cancer.  It extends beyond borders, bringing friends, coworkers, researchers, athletes and celebrities together in the beautiful Charleston region to rally against one rival, cancer,” she says.

“We ride with purpose.  We ride as one.”

Contact: For more information, visit: https://lowvelo.org/ or email Bolin at janet@lowvelo.org or bolinj@musc.edu. For more information about research at Hollings, visit: https://www.hollingscancercenter.org/research/