Local cyclists trek 900 miles to raise money for children with cancer

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – A group of local bicyclists trekked all the way from Canada down to Surfside Beach to raise money for local children battling cancer, and their families. They completed the ride Saturday night, and raised approximately $40,000 for the Ashley G. Foundation.

12 cyclists hit the road for 12 days and a total of 935 miles. “We gave the roads hell”, said cyclist Ryan Keeler, who came from Brooklyn, NY to join the ride. Tim O’Neil of Myrtle Beach said, “It was hot but we had a lot of fun. It could have been about 10 degrees cooler. That would have been OK with us.”

They rode in memory of Ashley Gaines, who passed away from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008, about a year after graduating from Waccamaw High School. James Brown planned a solo ride in her honor six years ago, but it grew into much more. “I was her coach but all these people who never even knew Ashley have jumped on board and they love her. And she lives through them,” he said.

This is the 6th Ashley G. bike ride. The organization helps cover living expenses for local families battling cancer, donates to cancer research, and awards college scholarships to local teens, This is O’Neil’s second year riding for Ashley. “Last year at this event we got to meet some of the people that the Ashley G foundation helps. And that was really moving. So this year was even important for me to get involved.” He says thinking of families like the Johnsons helped him push through the heat and exhaustion.

Lily Johnson was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 6 years old and battled the disease for almost 3 years. Her mom, Jennifer, says their family couldn’t have stayed afloat without the Ashley G Foundation. “It’s a miracle. I was a single mother of 3 children when Lily was diagnosed. I could not work, I could not pay our bills. It’s a really bad feeling to be worried about trying to keep your child alive but also have to worry about if you’re going to have  a roof over your head or electricity when you get home from the hospital,” Johnson said.

Brown says next year he’s planning a 3200-mile ride starting in San Francisco, but he’s not at all phased by the distance. “We all have children, and we hope somebody would step in for us some day if they needed it. This is just our opportunity.”

To support the Ashley G. Foundation or join next year’s race, head to the organization’s website http://www.ashleygfoundation.com/index.php.