Special to the Philanthropy Journal
By Peter R. Davis
Everything has a beginning. For one man and one event, it all started with a bicycle and a dream.
Spencer Lueders founded 24 Hours of Booty in 2002. A thought leader with a passion for cycling and changing the conversation about cancer, he has a creative spark and an ability to engage and rally people behind a cause to positively impact the community. After riding all 470 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway with his dad in 2001 as a cancer fundraiser, Spencer wanted to do more to help fight cancer and support the LIVESTRONG Foundation.
While riding Charlotte’s popular “Booty Loop” in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte, N.C., one day, Spencer had an “ah-ha” moment for a bigger cycling-related fundraising event – he would ride the almost 3-mile long Booty Loop for 24 Hours, which he did solo in November 2001 covering 312 miles. He recalls, “I remember being amazed the first year at the level of support from people I didn’t even know. Cancer has touched almost everyone in some way and it just reaffirmed my belief that it was important to go all out and do something about it.”
Since then, Spencer – who continues to serve on the 24 Hours of Booty board of directors – worked tirelessly to grow 24 Hours of Booty into the Charlotte institution that the city embraces today, all while balancing a legal career and a young family. Today, 24 Hours of Booty is run by a staff of six and is headquartered in Dilworth office space just on the edge of uptown Charlotte. It has also become the premier organization for integrating community cancer fundraising and cycling to engage communities in support of cancer survivorship and navigation programs.
Our mission is to conduct 24-hour cycling events that increase public awareness, funds and support for the LIVESTRONG Foundation and local cancer-fighting organizations, including: Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute, The Keep Pounding Fund at Carolinas Medical Center, the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas, Be The Match Foundation and Wind River Cancer Retreats in Charlotte; the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults in Columbia, Md.; and the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. With events in Charlotte, N.C., Columbia, MD, and Indianapolis, IN that bring in participants from around the country, we plan to continue to other communities in the coming years.
In 24 Hours of Booty’s 14-year history, more than 14,000 riders have raised more than $14 million to fight cancer. This year’s event in Charlotte included over 1,200 riders from 26 different states and 300 volunteers. 24 Hours of Booty’s model of success is based on putting on first-rate events and experiences for our riders, volunteers, supporters and communities.
Held on a traffic free loop, the community event brings together cyclists of all abilities. The only requirement is a bicycle (or unicycle!), a helmet, and a passion for fighting cancer. When you ride, donate or volunteer at 24 Hours of Booty, you get so much more than miles on your bike. You get a community of riders, cancer survivors, supporters coming together to help put cancer in its place.
In Charlotte, participants of 24 Hours of Booty presented by Levine Cancer Institute are seeing firsthand their donations at work literally in the backyard of the Booty Loop. As part of its ongoing collaboration with Carolinas HealthCare System, 24 Hours of Booty made a $1 million commitment in support of the Survivorship and Wellness Program at Levine Cancer Institute (the Institute). The Program offers: numerous specialized patient support groups; the Carolinas Cancer Wellness Program (at area YMCAs) powered by 24 Hours of Booty; vast educational resources; free individual and family counseling; and a comprehensive patient navigation program. 24 Hours of Booty funding also supports: yoga classes, tai chi, mind/body stress relief programs and a dedicated psychologist at the Institute.
In addition, 24 Hours of Booty helps fund the 24 Hours of Booty Bone Marrow Transplant Research Endowment at Levine Children’s Hospital. It is part of a $250,000 pledge that we made to the Carolina Kids Cancer Research Coalition in support of ground-breaking bone marrow transplant research programs conducted for cancer and sickle cell patients at the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center at Levine Children’s Hospital.
What started as a bike and a dream has evolved into an event with ordinary riders who are making an extraordinary difference in the fight against cancer. It’s all part of a collaborative effort to begin the loop in helping cancer survivors through their cancer journey while doing something meaningful for others.
Peter R. Davis is the Executive Director of 24 Hours of Booty, a 24-hour cycling event that raises local and national funds for cancer- fighting programs.