Group of cyclists riding on the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston during Lowvelo 2019
LOWVELO 2021 is a destination ride, rallying everyone together for one great cause — raising money for innovative and lifesaving cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.
"I got a $16 donation from a young woman in New York City who happened to have gone to college with my daughter who worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a dance therapist. And I had immediately reached out, cause I didn't know who this was. And I said, you know, tell me about why that is and why $16. And she said you know the cause is great. And that's what I had in my account at the end of the month."
— Dr. Gerard Silvestri, MUSC Hollings Cancer Researcher


MUSC Hollings Cancer Center Cancer Chat graphic

Episode Details

August 2021

Run Time: 21:52

Topics: LOWVELO, destination ride, cancer research, fundraising

Hollings Cancer Center director Dr. Ray DuBois gears up for a chat about the upcoming LOWVELO bike ride benefiting cancer research at Hollings with cancer researcher Dr. Gerard Silvestri and LOWVELO event manager Rachel Haynie.

Narration (00:01):
Coming up on this episode of Cancer Chat.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (00:04):
My daughter actually posted because she's one of these social media kids my story and I got a $16 donation from a young woman in New York city who happened to have gone to college with my daughter who worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a dance therapist. And I had immediately reach out cause I didn't know who this was. And I said, well, you know, tell me about why that is and why $16. And she said you know the cause is great. And that's what I had in my account at the end of the month.

Narration (00:37):
Hi, and welcome to Cancer Chat on this episode, Hollings Cancer Center director, Dr. Ray Dubois, gears up for a chat about the upcoming LoBello bike ride, benefiting cancer research at Hollings with cancer researcher, Dr. Gerard Silvestri and LoBello event manager, Rachel Haney. Enjoy the chat

Dr. Ray DuBois (00:56):
Today we have two special guests, Rachel Haney, who's the LOWVELO event manager and Dr. Gerard Silvestri. He's an MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, researcher, lung cancer, pulmonologist. He's been working on a very exciting cancer prevention and early detection program. But we want to start with the basics. So Rachel, you're new to the LOWVELO team, but you're not you new to this area. Tell us about yourself and what makes you excited about this bike ride? We call them.

Rachel Haynie (01:26):
Great. Thank you, Dr. Boy, I'm so excited to be a part of MUSC and the Hollings Cancer Center. I'm really excited to be a part of LOWVELO team this year and what makes LOWVELO special? There's so many aspects of this event. Not only is it a fundraising bike ride for Hollings Cancer Center, but it truly is more than that. It truly is a movement. It's a movement that rallies this community together for one great cause. And that's raising funds for cancer research here at Hollings.

Dr. Ray DuBois (01:57):
Thank you, Dr. Silvestri, you participated in the event in 2019, apparently blew everybody's wheels off in the race. Why did you choose to participate in, how would you describe your experience

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (02:13):
While by blowing everyone's wheels off? You mean, I, I barely made it across the finish line and had to be picked up. No, you know why I choose it? You know, I've been a faculty member here for 28 years, this August and you know, there's just the university been great to me and I want to make sure in some way I could get back to the university, but more importantly the cancer center relies on philanthropy in some ways. We get money through research funding, some funding through patient care, but for special projects and special needs, we rely on philanthropy and we're not like a, a Yale or a Harvard that has a billions and billions of dollars endowment. And so we need to raise money and we need that money to be able to have you steward that money and provide it for top level researchers from around the country for patient care, things that we might need that we can't necessarily get. And so I want to give back and I'm committed to patients with cancer. It's in my wheelhouse, I'm a cancer physician and also like to ride a bike. So all those things made me participate,

Dr. Ray DuBois (03:16):
Get some exercise. Well you know, a lot of cancer centers have developed these kinds of events that they're, you know, as a part of their fundraising effort. And in some places it does raise millions and millions of dollars. So what kind of impact do you think that would have here? And you've thought about this a lot. I know.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (03:36):
Yeah, sure. You know, again, I don't want to belabor how this works, but you know, this, when, when we get funds in, sometimes they're restricted, meaning they have to be used for certain research projects and they have to be used for certain things in the building and such. But one of the things that about this, that's so amazing, it's unrestricted money. This money comes in and we can earmark it for really special needs. And so, you know, it's hard to bring in top level researchers, even though Charleston is the greatest city in the country to live in. It's hard to bring in a top level researchers, you need to offer them what's called a package.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (04:13):
And that package might include everything from bringing their lab assistants, to bringing equipment, to buying new, special equipment. And that's what separates Hollings from any other cancer treatment program in the state. We have those top level things that we need and philanthropy helps support that those in restricted funds really can't come from mentoring well. So we do some other fundraisersGourmet and Grapes. We do the Hollings Cancer Center tournament. This event, I think can bring in the funds we need not just to survive, but to thrive.

Dr. Ray DuBois (04:45):
Good. Well put Rachel part of the beauty of this is that it can bring the community together and unify it in one sort of effort to have an impact on cancer. We're all affected all of our lives are affected by cancer. Can you tell us more about some of the community partnerships that have formed in this effort?

Rachel Haynie (05:04):
Absolutely. this year we are working with our firefighters and they are rally rallying all the departments together to bring awareness to the number one cause actually of death for fire for fighters is cancer head and neck cancer actually, and they are joining us on the ride this year. Creating a team they're actually gonna stop at one of the rest stops get into gear and ride through the finish line in full gear to bring to bring that awareness through our LOWVELO event.

Dr. Ray DuBois (05:37):
Well that's wonderful. So Gerard, many of our researchers love being a part of this event because it brings them together with the community and others that are, you know, doing what they can to help fight cancer. And family, friends come together. Why is that important do you think?

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (05:55):
You know, I tell everyone this when you're sitting with cancer patients in that professional setting, it can be pretty stressful, right? Like, you know we're working really hard. We don't have a ton of time during the data to visit with our colleagues. We're moving from thing to thing. We're delivering sometimes very difficult news to patients. We're also sometimes celebrating with our patients when they survive for five years. That's the big celebration point. But it's so great to see our colleagues outside of the workplace, right. We get to be outside with our friends and our family and other people. We recruit into this. And it's, it's really both and patients, some patients ride, right? So it's really both gratifying and fun to see people outside of their normal workday and outside of their workflows, even the uniform as I like to call it, and get to you know, really enjoy them for other aspects of their life, friendship and comradery things you don't, you know, even though you like, and actually love those colleagues, you work with you, you can't get that same feeling inside the workplace as you do when you're out and about, you know, nothing would be better than seeing you in biking shorts, Dr. DuBois. I have to say, I want that picture.

Dr. Ray DuBois (07:10):
I got the shorts and you'll see me. So Rachel can, maybe you could tell us more about the specifics of the routes, the times the dates and the home team.

Rachel Haynie (07:19):
Sure. Well, we are excited to be back in person this year on November 6th, and we have route options for everyone from the avid cyclist to the someone who wants to get on a beach cruiser and just enjoy the route, right? So we have our 22, 57 and a 100-mile route options that are going to start downtown at the Citadel at Hagood Stadium, and they're going to ride through Downtown over the Ravenel Bridge into Mount Pleasant and end on IOP. Then we also have our new island ride. This is a family friendly option. I'm really excited about. It's for 10 years and up. You can participate in this route option and it is going to start at Isle of Palms, ride over and through Sullivan's and end at IOP on Ocean Boulevard. There, we're going to have a great finished festival block parties, celebrating.

Rachel Haynie (08:13):
All of our riders are cancer patients are cancer survivors. And then also another great option for everyone this year is our stationary cycling classes. So if you're not comfortable yet riding on the road, you can participate that way. In one of our classes in partnership with pivotal fitness, they're going to bring out the stationary bikes and the trainers, and we're going to have three 45-minute classes right there at the finish right, right. Station next to the finish line. So they can be cheering on our riders as they cross and as they come in.

Dr. Ray DuBois (08:49):
It sounds like a fun event. And I assume we're going to need some volunteers and how people go about that.

Rachel Haynie (08:55):
Yes, absolutely. There are so many volunteer options and this really is a great way to get a feel for the event, if you're not able to ride, you can still participate as a volunteer. We need volunteers to help us at our rest stops. We need volunteers to help us at our packet pickup at Firefly Distillery the night before we need volunteers to help us at the start and finish lines as well. And the great thing is in 2019, a lot of our volunteers saw how much fun it was to for this event and the riders and the cause that it supports. And they are now coming back and participating as riders this year.

Dr. Ray DuBois (09:33):
That's great. And you know, this is a shout out for people to volunteer. If they've got the time and effort to do that Jordan, I understand you were one of the top fundraisers in 2019, which is I really Hollings really appreciates that. Can you give people some tips about how they can go about being a good fundraiser? In fact, I need some tips myself. Nobody's joined my team yet, so...

Rachel Haynie (09:57):
We can help with that too.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (10:00):
That's kind of a little bit of a lone Wolf just because I didn't have it together to, to get on a team. I got put on someone's team later on, but there were some really easy things you can do. First of all you know, and for the young people, they don't have Rolodexes, but you can go through your cell phone and, and just pick out names, and the first thing you need to do is tell your story. So each rider gets to tell their why I ride. And for me that first year I wrote for my for my dad who died at a very young age of cancer. And then the next year I wrote from my father-in-law, who lived at 89 and beat two cancers. And I don't know who I'm going to ride for this year, but that story can be compelling.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (10:40):
And when people read that story they want to give what I would also say to you is like, look, it, it doesn't have to be the big donors. I'm pretty lucky. And I have some very grateful patients who donated, who asked me to donate. I've had some you know, business leaders who've asked me, asked me, can I donate to your cause? But the most important donation for me ended up that my daughter actually posted, cause she's one of these social media kids, my story, and I got a $16 donation from a young woman in New York city who happened to have gone to college with my daughter who worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a dance therapist. And I had immediately reach out, cause I didn't know who this was. And I said, you know, tell me about why that is and why $16. And she said you know the cause is great. And that's what I had in my account at the end of the month. And to me, like, I want to send her $20 back, which I offered to do.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (11:41):
But to me it's so meaningful to have people big and small donate to this. So go through all the people, you know it's a great cause everyone's as said, Dr. Dubois, everyone's touched by cancer. People will want to give to this and you just, you can text them, you know, with the link to your story, you can email them with a link. It, it, you know, it doesn't take too much time. I'm almost embarrassed to say that despite the fact that I was pretty lucky and raised a lot of money, I only think I got through M in my list on my cellphone because I just couldn't keep texting people. And so this year I'll try to get dizzy. And, and I think that's the way we need to do this.

Dr. Ray DuBois (12:22):
That's very helpful. You know, who I'll be riding for this year. So my brother-in-law who, you know, was recently diagnosed. Rachel, what creative ideas have you seen writers or the home team folks do to get their fundraising?

Rachel Haynie (12:37):
So Tradesmen Brewery, actually, they rode in 2019 and the owner he actually challenged his coworkers to if they could reach their fundraising goal, which they did and actually went over their fundraising goal by quite a bit. They he said that he would dress up in full costume for one night. Their busiest night is Friday and serve throughout the night in a costume. And so he wore a full uniform costume or sorry, a full unicorn costume that night and served. So he did commit to that, and that was a fun way, a fun challenge for them to really fundraise there and participate, but also the home team option is wonderful. So that option is a way for our participants that may be, cannot make it on November 6th on ride day to support the cause virtually so they can get their miles in by running, walking, swimming, however they please but the fundraising does stay the same for that. And the fundraising minimum does start at $300.

Dr. Ray DuBois (13:49):
That's great. Especially for those who just can't be here at that point in time. So Gerard, some of the money's already gone to great use. We had a $50,000 that we took from the money that was raised in 2019 to help support our CAR-t developing CAR-t cell program. As you know, that's a way to use cell therapy to treat cancer. It's been used a lot in the heme malignancies, but now it's being looked at a lot more carefully for solid tumor. So that, that could be something we could bring these new treatments to the state of South Carolina for our patients. You've already mentioned why you think this funding is important because it allows us to do things that are unrestricted and normally not budgeted for. And sometimes those things come along. And can you think of other examples where you would deploy these kinds of funds and you're involved in a lot of outreach stuff as well.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (14:42):
So for people who don't know this, you know, medical universities you know, spreading its wings around the state and the cancer center is a big part of that. We want to serve all the patients in our state. And we also realize that some people who aren't as fortunate in state of South Carolina, we were in a state that has a two thirds of our counties are rural and underserved. And, and one of the things we're doing is expanding for example our screening programs including a mammography bus, including screening for lung cancer, to these rural and underserved areas. We need funding for that. We need to be able to both provide those services for people but also do some research on, on the needs of that population.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (15:32):
And so we have a really great group of people here led by Dr. Marvella Ford, who works in these communities to, to bring good cancer care and navigation of of, of our patients once they develop cancer. And we need, to expand those services. It's one thing to have this great cancer center in Charleston, but, you know, there's Hampton, South Carolina and Lancaster, South Carolina and Florence, South Carolina and Andrews, South Carolina. And if you've driven through those towns and, you know, at one point I actually have, I, it got filled up, but I had a map of where my patients came from and put little dots on my map and, and went and just drove through some of those places at different times. You'll find that once you get 30 miles outside of Charleston, you're in some of these rural areas that need our help. And this is the type of fundraiser that can provide that help that research for that community and, and services community.

Dr. Ray DuBois (16:26):
Well, that's great. So Rachel, beyond just being a fundraiser, this is a special event that brings together survivors and their families and in a, in a special way. So what else is going on to, you know, have remembrances and think about the memories of those you know, emotional experiences and other things that makes this event so special?

Rachel Haynie (16:50):
Absolutely. so like we were saying, this really is the catalyst for groundbreaking to raise funds for groundbreaking cancer research, right? So when you participate in those events, you're not only riding and participating as a cyclist and enjoying all the fun aspects of the event, but you're riding for a cause you're riding for a family member or friend who maybe has lost their battle with this awful disease. We're celebrating our cancer patients up today and we're working to provide the best care for our cancer patients today and tomorrow. So I feel like when you cross that finish line our riders get a sense of being a part of something bigger than themselves. They get that sense of being a part of the cause. They really understand that and it's impactful

Dr. Ray DuBois (17:37):
And there'll be some celebratory events other than just crossing the line as well.

Rachel Haynie (17:44):
Well, absolutely. I mean, we have to celebrate our our riders and participants and participants that make it fun, right? So we are going to have a large finished festival celebration on Isle of Palms, right on Ocean Boulevard. It's going to be a great celebration. We will have testimonials being played during the event as well from riders in our patients. And we will have a packet pickup event actually the evening before at Firefly distillery to come and get all your goodies where you will be offering bags and t-shirts and rider jerseys for all of our participants this year. Wonderful.

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (18:21):
I can tell you that the celebration in 2019 when we all got together was just fantastic, right? The night before there was some music and, and people got to see each other and, and, you know, and then the day of after the race when you're kind of tired, but you feel great. We're, we're all together afterwards. It's just such a fun time, Rachel, and I thank you and team for for getting us ready for that, because it's a long ride and we want to celebrate after.

Rachel Haynie (18:48):
Yeah. And it's great way you're forming those lasting relationships. Absolutely. And I know we keep saying race, but it is just a ride. If you would like to make it a race, you're more than welcome to and challenge your other riders, but it is just it is just a ride. And like I said, we are focusing a lot on becoming more of a family friendly and making this more accessible to everyone. And I am excited about that island ride. That 10-mile ride.

Dr. Ray DuBois (19:17):
It's a great addition. Yeah. Dr. Silvestri, do you have any special anecdotes or stories about the ride ?

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (19:25):
Before we get to that too, I do think it's worth saying that it is not a race, that there are plenty of stops along the way that there are different distances for the ride. So people who are on a huffy beach bike, please don't, don't think you can't be at that race. There are going to be some intense riders who go out with Hincapie and get out there and ride a hundred miles. But, but for most of us, this is a ride and it's, it's a lot of fun and there are plenty of places to stop. Yeah. You know, my, my anecdote is that you know, I, I tried to stay with this Peloton for people who don't ride a lot. If you get in a big group, they kinda, you lose the wind drag and they drag you along with you and you can go really fast. And so we got this like one, like there's only like two Hills in Charleston, we got this one hill and I just started falling back and falling back and falling back or falling back. And I was like, can I still leave?

Dr. Gerard Silvestri (20:15):
But you know, I caught up to him at the next stop and they all just start laughing and saying, man, you got to get in better shape if you're going to do this big ride. And so you know, I've been riding a little bit and spinning a little bit. So now this year I'm going to hope to stay with them, but it was a whole heck of a lot of fun. And it's the one other thing I'd say, Rachel, and I know you, you're going to plan for this. It's very safe. There are, there are police out there. There are ways to keep us safe from oncoming traffic. And the ride itself is very, very safe. So I don't want people to not think they can come out and even particularly on the island ride, which I know will be much slower and safer. So please don't don't think this is not going to be the utmost as far as I can tell. I don't think anyone had a problem in the 2019 inaugural event. So we want to keep it safe for folks.

Rachel Haynie (21:04):
Yeah, absolutely. We work with a great management company that helps us with that.

Dr. Ray DuBois (21:07):
Right. Rachel, where should people go for more information if they need?

Rachel Haynie (21:10):
It LOWVELO.org and you can register there on our website, it has all the information. And then also on our Facebook page on that Facebook page, we also have list of events with upcoming training rides that we host and any fundraisers that we'll be hosting as well.

Narration (21:27):
Thank you for listening to this episode of Cancer Chat. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at MUSC Hollings, and visit us online at hollingscancercenter.musc.edu. And remember, here at the Hollings Cancer Center, we're finding tomorrow's cure for cancer today.


Episode Guests

Wendy Balliet 

Gerard Silvestri, M.D.

Hollings cancer researcher

Liza Patterson 

Rachel Haynie

LOWVELO event manager