What do tutus, bikes, cancer treatment and gratitude have in common? They all converge at an event Sunday, Aug. 25, at Spokengear Cyclery in Two Harbors.
A bike ride has been planned to celebrate the recovery of a 2-year-old cancer survivor and to raise funds for the organizations that support families through cancer treatment.
The "Grit and Gratitude" bike ride fundraiser was planned by Dr. Heather Buchholz of Duluth following the lengthy treatment of her daughter, Lily. In December, Lily was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a type of liver cancer that affects about one in a million children under age 2.
Hepatoblastoma is a rare tumor that grows in cells in the liver, and is the most cancerous liver tumor in early childhood. The cancer cells can spread to other areas of the body. The most common location they spread to is the lungs, which was the case with Lily. The exact cause of the cancer is unknown.
"She was diagnosed about 10 days before Christmas, my husband, Matt, felt the mass in her abdomen," Buchholz said. "We drove down to the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis that evening and needed to be flown on an Angel Flight to Cincinnati for care."
Once in Ohio at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, Buchholz had to scramble to find a place to stay, as the Ronald McDonald House didn't have room at first. A doctor provided them a space in a house that was up for sale until there was room available.
"But we were so lucky to be able to live in that Ronald McDonald house while Lily underwent her procedures and treatment," Buchholz said. "And that doctor providing us a place, it just proved how people were willing to take care of us in such a wonderful way."
After rounds of aggressive chemo and six surgeries, Lily is now cancer-free, but has trouble eating and needs a feeding tube. There is a chance that Lily’s cancer could come back, so she will have to continue to get checkups regularly.
Inspired by people's actions throughout the process, Buchholz organized the ride to be both a celebration of Lily's recovery and a fundraiser. Fifty percent of the funds raised from the ride will benefit research for hepatoblastoma. The rest will be divided among organizations like the Dragonfly Foundation and the Northern Lights Foundation, which help families with care and resources while their children are battling cancer.
Participants can choose between a 20-mile paved route, 50-mile paved route or a 50-mile gravel ride. Riders most pay a $25-$50 registration fee and can gather donations via gritandgratitude2019.myevent.com.
But what about the tutus?
Riders will also be encouraged to don a tutu in a show of support for Lily and her sister, Elise, 4. To Lily's amusement, Elise has always loved wearing tutus and she'd often dance around in them. While undergoing treatment, Lily started wearing tutus on the days she felt reasonably well.
"That's how we'd know she was feeling better," Buchholz said. "She'd gained a reputation for wearing them around the ward. Now she's more into full-on dresses, but the tutus will remain a staple."
Rider check-in begins at 8 a.m. and the ride starts at 9 a.m. Bikers are encouraged to register ahead of time, but same-day registration will also be available. Those who don't want to ride but want to donate can sponsor a rider.