One day, six races and more than 2,700 participants. Padres Pedal the Cause is a hope-giving, cancer-research-funding event that’s taken place at San Diego’s Petco Park (100 Park Blvd.) every year since 2013. In the last six years, Padres Pedal has raised more than $10 million, with 100% being donated to local research centers like Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, and children’s hospitals like Rady’s in Serra Mesa, all in an effort to end cancer once and for all.
In total, the event funds 53 local cancer research projects, five of which are clinical trials.
“We’ve had more and more participants join in each year and this year’s event will definitely be one of our biggest,” said Anne Marbarger, executive director of Padres Pedal. “To know that we’re an organization that’s providing hope for these families by funding research that’s actually going towards making sure kids in the future don’t get cancer or at least have better treatment options, that’s super meaningful.”
Padres Pedal hosts races this Saturday, Nov. 16, ranging from 5K running events to 25, 55, 88 and even 100-mile bike rides over the Coronado Bay Bridge and through Coronado’s Silver Strand State Beach. And local doctors, in addition to cancer in-patient families, are also breaking out their bikes to join the cause.
“I have seen cancer take the lives of many individuals over my professional career, including my dad and one of my best friends,” said Paul Dougherty, a La Jolla-based dentist at his own clinic, Dougherty Dental. “So, it was a no-brainer to get involved.”
Dougherty has been an avid bike rider for the last 20 years, beginning with his first mission-focused raced with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training national cycling event in 1999. Dougherty says he got “hooked” on the mission and began focusing his attention on local efforts to fight fatal diseases. When Bill Koman, a cyclist and two-time lymphoma survivor, brought his Pedal the Cause event from St. Louis to San Diego in 2013, Dougherty jumped at the chance to join.
“It has always been a positive experience for me to ride side by side with a team of people all working towards a common goal to fight this disease,” said Dougherty, who rides with Team Beaumont in Padres Pedal’s 100-mile race, The Century. “The money raised at Padres Pedal is really making a difference in the trenches battling cancer, and I’m seeing positive outcomes more today than ever before.”
One of those positive outcomes is Padres Pedal’s focus on empowering kids who want to get outside the hospital and be active, either by participating in the kids bike race “Super Hero Kids Challenge,” or by one of these “SuperKids” being sponsored by a Padres Pedal team. One of the children in the SuperKids program is 4-year-old Savannah Schwartz, a Rady’s brain cancer patient and daughter of Jonathan Schwartz, cycling team captain of the WD-40 bike team in Padres Pedal.
“Padres Pedal has been a big support system for us by changing our perspective about life and about people,” said Schwartz, whose daughter was diagnosed at the age of 2. “You never fully understand what resilience is until you see a child go through something like this. The pain they endure through treatment is astronomical, but my daughter has always done it with a smile and that smile has given us a lot of strength.”
“My team last year supported a 5-year-old boy named Ryker who was being treated at Rady’s,” added Dougherty, who just last spring diagnosed one of his patients with oral cancer. “Seeing him fight the battles of trying to beat his disease was very impactful for each of us as a team and significant in why we need funds to find a cure.”
To register for Padres Pedal the Cause events, visit mygopedal.org. Check-in begins at 4:30 a.m. and events last from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m. when the park closes. Lunch and bar services are provided and there’s a finish-line festival with live music at the end of the races.