Join The Ride
A little more than a year ago, Dag and Alicia Grantham were in Columbus, Ohio, biking 100 miles as part of Pelotonia, a weekend-long bike ride that raises funds for cancer research. It felt more like 1,000 miles as the Granthams, mostly neighborhood bikers, pushed themselves to make it to the finish line.
On a flat stretch that seemed to last forever, surrounded by cornfields on both sides, they approached a single pickup truck under a tent, with a man holding a sign. As each rider passed, he shouted, “Thank you for saving my wife.”
The sweat and the pain suddenly faded away. That single moment struck both Granthams so powerfully that they looked at each other and said, “Why doesn’t Augusta have something like this? Let’s do a bike ride in Augusta.”
That’s how Paceline was born.
Dag (Don Jr.) is the son of Don Grantham, former Augusta Commissioner, businessman and civic leader, and his father’s example of civil service was an inspiration. An Augusta native, Dag moved back to his hometown last year, and both he and Alicia were eager to get involved in the local community.
Augusta had all the right elements for a bike ride: The city has long played host to the Ironman 70.3, which includes a 56-mile bike ride in Augusta and surrounding areas. And like Columbus, it boasts a cancer center. Not just any cancer center, but the state’s cancer center, where patients can receive some of the latest treatments available in the state—if not the nation.
Still, the Georgia Cancer Center is in many ways one of the city’s best-kept secrets, which became another reason to host an event. “As I started to ask around, ‘If you were diagnosed with cancer or a family member was diagnosed with cancer, where would you seek treatment?’ Not a single person said here,” said Alicia. “So we started thinking, is it because people don’t know it’s here? Or do they not know about the great research being done? I learned that people are coming from all over the world to seek treatment here.
“This is Georgia’s cancer center…this is something that the community can rally around.”
Because “The Ride,” as the Granthams initially called it, is so much more than just that. “It is a social movement,” said Alicia. “Because it’s not only about raising money and biking. It’s about the community coming together”—fundraising together, holding their own mini-events, pushing themselves to work together, resulting in funds that help find better treatments for a disease that doesn’t discriminate.
Although the event is most definitely not “Pelotonia South,” the Granthams did reach out to its organizers for help in basing their event on that highly successful model. President and CEO Doug Ulman was glad to help. Pelotonia contracted with the Granthams to provide them a playbook for the event specifically designed for Augusta.
Another key partner is the MCG Foundation, which is working closely with the Granthams on logistics and rider recruitment and will also be the philanthropic body housing the donations for the Georgia Cancer Center. “The MCG Foundation was honored to get behind this movement, and has quickly immersed its staff and board into the work of Paceline,” said Ian Mercier, MCG Foundation CEO. “Paceline’s mission and philanthropic goals resonate with the Foundation as we are fully dedicated to supporting the Georgia Cancer Center, the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University.”
This is how the event will work: Interested riders sign up for specific lengths, each with its own fundraising goal: 25 miles is $750; 50 miles, $1,000; and 100 miles, $1,500. It’s important to note that every dollar raised by individuals or teams goes directly to cancer research, with funding partners supporting all event costs.
The idea is for riders to push themselves, both physically on the ride as well as with their fundraising. Riders can choose one of several ways to meet their goals, from contributing their own resources, getting involved in one or more of Paceline’s own sponsored fundraising events, or getting creative by hosting one of their own mini-events. “There are endless ways to fundraise,” said Dag. “But the last thing we’re going to do is to say, ‘Good luck with raising all of that money, see you in May.’ It’s all about engagement and support,” with each rider receiving a fundraising toolkit that includes creative ideas for raising funds to easily hit their goal.
Those ideas range from hosting a dinner party and inviting friends to purchase tickets, to partnering with a local business to contribute a certain percent of revenues to a team..
For those who aren’t able to ride, there are opportunities to volunteer or to be a virtual rider and still fundraise.
For the bike ride itself—which Dag describes as the celebration of the work to raise money throughout the year—the focus will be on the experience. Dag, who grew up in Augusta, likens it to that emotional response when you walk the course at the Augusta National during the Masters Tournament. “From the opening ceremonies to the rest stops to the route itself, it will be top notch,” he said.
The Granthams’ goal for the first year is to host 1,500 riders and raise $3 million.
Choosing a name for an event the scope and size imagined by the Granthams wasn’t an easy task. It took about 10 stakeholders sitting in a room and sharing ideas during a workshop-style event. Marketing experts joined with fundraising professionals along with those who’d witnessed Pelotonia, including not only the Granthams but also Mike Kessler, interim vice president of development at Augusta University, who hails from Ohio and has participated in the event for 10 years.
Then they began to look at bike terms. “Paceline” stood out. The term describes a formation of bikers in a line, one close behind the other. This conserves energy by riding in the draft of other riders, enabling the group to travel at a faster rate than a rider could alone. “The name represents an effort for our community to rally around one another. Together we can get to a cure faster,” said Alicia.
One question the Granthams are often asked is, “Who’s the target for this event?” “It’s everyone,” said Alicia, from elite to casual bikers as well as all ages, from teens to seniors. “It’s cancer survivors, family and friends of cancer patients, those who have lost a loved one, and individuals who just want to make a difference.”
Cancer, after all, affects everyone too. “Cancer—it doesn’t care. It cuts across all socioeconomic boundaries,” said Dag. “We saw this as a way to bring the community together and work together, while having fun raising money to support the fight against cancer.”
Join the Movement!
“Anybody can get involved,” said Alicia, from bikers and volunteers to virtual riders who simply want to fundraise. Just as important are those who can help spread the word. To join the movement, visit www.pacelineride.org or follow Paceline on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, @pacelineride. Paceline’s bike ride and celebration hits the road May 10 and 11, 2019, with an opening ceremony celebration on Friday evening and the ride and finish line celebration on Saturday.