Jack Gallaway would be proud.
As one of the founding members of Cure on Wheels — a two-day bike ride through Pasco and Hernando counties to raise money to battle cancer — Gallaway, unfortunately, never got to see the ride in action.
Gallaway was stricken with multiple myeloma, and just two months before the inaugural ride in May 2008, he died. He was 70.
His wife, Grace, rode this weekend, 30 miles to be exact, and she was all smiles at seeing more than 70 riders up at the crack of dawn, heading out of the parking lot at Saint Leo University.
"This ride means a lot to me," Gallaway said. "I'll be thinking about him the whole ride."
Event organizer Richard Spayde, who is a four-year leukemia survivor, estimates that Cure on Wheels will raise more than $70,000, which will benefit H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and 1Voice Foundation for childhood cancers. That figure is up from $50,000 in 2008. Gallaway said each year the event will feature something new.
For instance, Gallaway wants to start a kids' ride.
"We love having families all here," Gallaway said, adding that her family rode together this weekend.
The two-day event, which includes a 167-mile route around the Withlacoochee State Forest and down the Suncoast Trail for the distance riders, is also more than just a bike ride. Organizers like to call it an event because the Friday before the ride they have a ceremony where they watch videos and hear from other survivors.
Spayde said the ceremony can be a bit emotional, especially when talking about Jack. Because they are there for the same reason, riders find that it's a good time to socialize.
Despite the late-night talks and billiards game at the dormitories, everyone was ready to ride.
"It's all about (their) commitment" Spayde added. "Everyone has their own reason, … and that gives them the strength to get up and ride. Most are excited this morning. That's because they hope to make a difference in people's lives."
Everyone involved seems to be affected by cancer in some way. Either they're a survivor or they had family or friends who have died from or battled the disease.
Tim Parrett, whose mom suffered from cancer before she died, has done numerous rides, most that benefit one cause or another. Diabetes, cancer — anything that Parrett can do to help out.
"I've been blessed with good health, so I know I should do my part," Parrett said. "Riding a bike is easy, and it's funny that the survivors give us a lot of credit. The mileage here is easy compared to what survivors and others go through. This is nothing like chemo or radiation. I hope people know that."
So before the ride, Grace Gallaway couldn't put her camera down. Every chance she got, she snapped another photo of riders wearing their sunset-colored jersey.
She'd smile some more, someone would make her laugh and then she put on her helmet and took off on her bike. She wanted to do her part. She wanted to finish her route, knowing her husband would be watching her and all of the riders.
"Jack always said, 'The only way to cure cancer is with money.' So he started with the ride to get that money," Gallaway said. "I know it's just going to grow. It's moving to so many because there are so many survivors or (so many) riding for a survivor or for someone. Everyone's been touched by cancer here.
"It's really a wonderful thing to do, and Jack's right. This is the only way to cure cancer. We have to get money that can help out. He would say the same thing if he were here."
Community sports editor Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-1771.