Ride gives kids courage to fight illnesses | SummitDaily.com

Ride gives kids courage to fight illnesses

Kimberly Nicoletti

SUMMIT COUNTY – Matthew Talbot has fought an uphill battle with cancer since he was 3 years old. Three weeks ago, chances looked slim the 10-year-old would ride in a 155-mile bicycle tour that ends today.

Two malignant tumors in Matthew’s legs grew after doctors at The Children’s Hospital had to interrupt chemotherapy treatment to operate on his bladder six weeks ago, but today, Matthew is finishing the tour on a tandem bike.

He enjoyed coasting downhill the best, he said.

More than 1,700 cyclists began the 13th annual Colorado Credit Unions’ Courage Classic Bicycle Tour in Leadville Saturday, riding 57 miles from Leadville to Copper Mountain Resort, via Minturn and Vail Pass. On Sunday, cyclists rode 53 miles from Copper, through Frisco, across the Dam Road to Dillon, over Swan Mountain to Breckenridge and back to Copper. Cyclists conquered the highest point of the tour, Fremont Pass, today, finishing the 45-mile day in Leadville.

The Courage Classic is The Children’s Hospital’s highest-grossing fund raiser. Individuals and teams must raise at least $200 in pledges. Cyclists raise an average of $425 per person in pledges, and last year’s event raised $1.1 million, Courage Classic Executive Director John Eddy said.

Proceeds fund the hospital’s handicap sports program, patient care, preventive education, advocacy and research.

“The bicycle tour is the means to the ends,” Eddy said. “It’s really all about raising funds for the hospital and increasing the awareness of the community.”

“A lot of the riders have personal experience with the hospital,” said April Montoya, volunteer coordinator for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. “Everybody is really emotionally tied to the hospital. Even the volunteers come back year after year.”

Team Courage, made up of 10 children with disabilities who are patients at The Children’s Hospital and 14 adults, participates in the tour to increase self esteem and overcome physical challenges.

“(The best was) being able to conquer Vail Pass,” said Dave Sherman, who has been riding on the team for 11 years. “Once we were at the top, I felt so good, I didn’t know what to do. (The tour) certainly helps strength, endurance and (is a) positive influence.”

In addition to the 1,700 riders, 600 volunteers make the tour successful, helping guide and encourage the riders.

“The aide stations are really supportive,” said cyclist Doug Waters, describing the 1950s-themed aid station on Swan Mountain Road. “It gives you that little extra push. It sparks you up.”

Former patients of the hospital, such as 16-year-old Laura Warren, volunteer as ambassadors. Warren survived kidney disease at age 8 after her father donated a kidney for her.

“I think The Children’s Hospital is wonderful,” Warren said. “(It’s) rated No. 4 in the nation for children’s hospitals. The doctors take a lot of time just to focus on us kids instead of just looking at our parents and saying “your kid has this.’ Everyone tries to take our focus off our illness and give us a good time in the hospital. I’m really glad to see all these people out here, because they all seem so happy about riding for the hospital.”

The Colorado Credit Unions originated the Courage Classic as a way to support The Children’s Hospital, which serves 13 states with its critical care services. The credit unions have been the title sponsor for 13 years.

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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