The Team Tony Foundation – a group of cancer survivors and volunteers (referred to as “Teammates”), who provide support and resources to cancer fighters (referred to as “Fighters”) – is thrilled to announce its annual Cycle of Life (COL) event. COL is a two-day, 200-mile cycling event across the state of Florida that begins on Friday, October 3, 2014, and ends on Sunday, October 5 with a finisher’s celebration on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. The goal for this year’s event is to raise $100,000 through registration and donations to help fund Team Tony Foundation’s goal of positively impacting as many people in our community as possible who have been diagnosed with cancer.
COL is in its sixth year and participation has tripled since the inaugural event. The ride begins in Ormond Beach and culminates with a welcome home party hosted by VillageBikes on Lakewood Ranch Main Street, with beverages, food and upbeat music. “The first day takes riders through the Ocala National Forest, around Lake Mineola and over Sugarloaf Mountain,” said Tony McEachern, founder of the Team Tony Foundation. “The second continues through the rolling hills of Clermont into ranch country and old Florida towns. Our riders really enjoy the scenery through these parts of the state.” McEachern himself participates in the ride but must ride a tandem bike with a friend as he lost his left peripheral vision in both eyes due to his past cancer treatments.
Thanks to the success of the annual COL events, the Team Tony Foundation is introducing a new initiative to provide a total of $5,000 per month to numerous selected Fighters to help with the expenses related to diagnosis and treatment. Each Fighter may receive a maximum of $1,500. “I know from my own cancer battle that the costs of medication, treatment and travel expenses for necessary care can be overwhelming for anyone,” said McEachern. “This is our way of letting someone know that we are there for them and will do all we can to see them through this difficult time.” The first recipients of the cancer treatment funding initiative are local Fighters from all walks of life and these first donations are covering medications and treatment travel expenses. The names of the Fighters are currently being withheld to protect their privacy and the privacy of their families.
McEachern’s story is the inspiration behind the Team Tony Foundation and serves as a sobering reminder of the devastation that accompanies a cancer diagnosis, and how courage, determination and support can give one the strength to survive. In 2002, McEachern competed in the Raid Gauloises in Vietnam, a grueling 621-mile endurance race. One year later, at only 33 years old and in the midst of seemingly peak physical health, he was diagnosed with a grade III anaplastic astrocytoma – a cancer of the brain – and given just two years to live. After five neurosurgeries, two years of radiation, four years of chemotherapy, several experimental treatments and suffering loss of peripheral vision, McEachern is still here 11 years later and vows to share his story of fighting cancer and help others do the same.
Once in remission McEachern found himself regularly approached by young men, in the midst of their own cancer battle, seeking guidance and support from someone who had been there. “When you’re in your 20s or 30s it’s unlikely any of your friends have battled cancer and though they are supportive they can’t empathize and they can’t tell you what to expect,” says McEachern. His interaction with these young fighters made McEachern realize there was a need for a cancer support organization in our area. That realization is what led him to launch the Team Tony Foundation in 2010 with the mission to pair cancer survivors with cancer fighters, so those diagnosed with cancer get the support they need. “I recall sitting in my treatment chair watching so many people around me trying so incredibly hard not to die that they had forgotten how to live,” said McEachern. “I wanted to show them that you can live with this disease.”
About the Team Tony Foundation:
Founded in 2010 by cancer survivor Tony McEachern, the Team Tony Foundation pairs cancer fighters with cancer survivors of similar diagnosis and age to offer insight and inspiration throughout the cancer journey. The foundation manages a volunteer program at the Florida Cancer Specialists and utilizes a survivor training program based on coaching methodology at Georgetown University. The majority of the foundation’s annual budget is funded by the Cycle of Life event, a 200-mile bike ride across Florida. For more information, visit TeamTony.org.
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