On Sunday, close to 100 people turned up at West Rock Ridge State Park, including racers and spectators, to participate in the ROCK the RIDGE benefiting LIVESTRONG Mountain Bike Race. Folks gathered from Maine to New York to New Jersey and everywhere in between. Of course, many may not have cared less what the cause was, it was merely the series finale of the New England Championship Series for the Eastern Fat Tire Association. But others turned out to show support.
During the racers' meeting, when I reminded folks of the cause and why it was so significant, as we, in EFTA, lost a beloved member to cancer a couple of years ago, there was a tangible shift in mood. Everyone was still excited, but there was a sense of intensity that seemed to hover in the air.
It's not the first time I've experienced that.
When I decided, long before I was diagnosed, that I was going to ride 200 miles to support LIVESTRONG a couple of years ago, I was more excited about the adventure than the cause. That is, until I learned of a couple of friends who were fighting cancer. Then, it hit me, when I found myself struggling, that I was doing this for something greater than me. And, as I rode, and I chit-chatted with other riders along the way in the New York City Century Tour, and told them why I was riding, their smiled turned serious - not angry, not sad, but intense, and we rode a little faster.
Online, on Twitter and Facebook, LIVESTRONG Leaders, registered Team LIVESTRONG members and others in the "community" form a support network. Again, before I was diagnosed, I merely mentioned that I was doing a ride for LIVESTRONG, and all of a sudden, there was a throng of survivors that were connecting with me. I joked that I felt in with the "in" crowd without having cancer. (Oh, the irony.)
But I'd found a community.
When I was diagnosed, I thanked my lucky stars I was already plugged into that community, though, there is no doubt in my mind, that had I come in off the street and asked for membership, I would have been welcomed with open arms. Why? Because I see it done. With everyone that says, "I need help - I have cancer," or, "My dad has cancer," or, "I just lost my cousin to cancer," a note of encouragement is sent by someone at LIVESTRONG, fellow leaders, etc.
So to, on Sunday, at the end of the race, there was a community - even though it was a one-day community, it was there.
There are rare instances in one life where, blindly, you are accepted into a group. And there is no time as important as during a battle with cancer when that is needed.
LIVESTRONG is a global community of caretakers, survivors, supporters and leaders.
To show your support for this community and the cause, please consider a donation to my LIVESTRONG Challenge account: HTTP://LAF.CONVIO.NET/GOTO/RICAROCKSAUSTIN2012