Nearly 2,000 cyclists from greater Puget Sound—including many altruistic enthusiasts who are affiliated with the region’s commercial real estate community—are gearing up for Fred Hutch’s Obliteride, a major annual fundraising event held to benefit Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Now in its fifth year, the philanthropic bike ride built around a weekend of festivities designed to raise awareness and money for cancer research at the institution nicknamed “Fred Hutch” is expected to raise more than $1 million. The ride is designed for biking newbies and cycling experts alike and will take place August 11–13.
Since the event began, riders, donors, sponsors and volunteers have raised $9.2 million for cancer research at the institution, according to the group’s website.
The event also involves kickoff parties Friday night and on Sunday along the finish line. About 800 volunteers and 2,000 riders are expected, up from 600 riders during the event’s first year, said Kerri Kazarba Schneider, head of public relations at Fred Hutch Obliteride.
“Fred Hutch is this fantastic research center, but most people in the area don’t know a lot about it,” Schneider said. “So, we wanted to bring more people into the fold and get them involved in and supporting Fred Hutch because the research is very expensive, and the dollars that Obliteride has brought in helps jump-start different research programs.”
Since its founding, a host of real estate companies have been involved in Obliteride, Schneider said. “I think that they’ve just really enjoyed the company culture that Obliteride provides for them,” she explained, since employees form teams and then go on to train and ride together.
Riders can select routes of 25 miles, 50 miles or 100 miles, or chose to ride a 150 mile route over two days. People known as “Virtual Riders” can enlist donations via the internet.
“It’s been very successful,” Schneider said about Obliteride, with participation growing about 30 percent each year. “One hundred percent of all the money that the riders raise goes directly to Fred Hutch, which people like a lot.”
Avid cycler Bill Lewis, who is also the chairman of construction firm Lease Crutcher Lewis, will be pedaling once again during next month’s Obliteride, said Linda Helm, project manager at the company. The firm, a corporate sponsor of the event, also consistently sends the largest team to the ride. This year, there will be 60 riders and 18 volunteers who are employees, their family or friends, or company subcontractors, said Helm.
Seattle’s Sellen Construction is also involved in Obliteride. Andrew Donaldson, field manager, is co-captain of Team Sellen, along with JB Gibson, a project engineer with the company. So far, they’ve enlisted 21 riders and expect to have 25 riders on the day of the event.
Donaldson, on his fourth ride, says he is aiming to raise $5,000 in donations from his employer, his family and friends as well as from his connections throughout the real estate community. Sellen provides its employees with $500 annually to donate to the philanthropic causes of their choice. “Having the backing of the commercial construction industry is great,” he said.
“Unfortunately, cancer has affected a lot of folks,” including some of his co-workers, he said about his motivation to become involved.
“At the kickoff party, they have either [cancer] survivors or scientists who are actually working on curing cancer,” he said. In the past, the researchers have talked about what they are working on and how Obliteride dollars are directly impacting their work, he said. The event “provides a conduit” between people involved in science and cancer research with the people who are donating, said Donaldson.
Donaldson has also been moved over the years after striking up conversations with other Obliteride riders who told him they are cancer survivors. “Those stories are very inspirational. That’s what keeps me going. Riding a bike is nothing compared to what they are going through, but hearing their stories as they’re riding a bike after they’ve beaten cancer is just awesome,” he said.
“From a company standpoint, I think it’s great because it allows companies to support their employees who are passionate about anything, and this thing happens to be cancer research,” Donaldson said.