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Law Firms, Alumni Hit the Road for Pelotonia

July 12, 2011 | Alumni

In reality, everyone’s inspiration is a little bit different. Some ride in remembrance of a loved one. Others ride for the camaRIDErie. Others still ride for the love and respect of the institution. Whatever their story, on August 19-21, dozens of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law alumni will hit the road and pedal their way toward ending cancer as part of Pelotonia. The event, in its third year, raises money for cancer research and 100 percent of the funds raised is used for essential and innovative research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James). Riders select one of several distances between Columbus and Athens, Ohio and raise funds to support their ride.

“I am inspired by a combination of things, any one of which would have been sufficient by itself. First, I know and have great respect for Dr. Caligiuri and what he and his colleagues are doing at The James – this is a very worthy cause (both of my parents had cancer); second, I really looked forward to and have enjoyed training with my colleagues at Porter Wright – we have had a lot of fun on those long rides around Ohio; third, it is a great event for our community – cycling is cool; and fourth, I needed the exercise,” said Robert W. “Buzz” Trafford ’77, who will be riding 180 miles and wasn’t much of a cycler before his first Pelotonia in 2009.

Webb I. Vorys ’85 was hooked on the idea of Pelotonia from day one.

“I was sitting in my office minding my own business when our managing partner, Russ Gertmenian, called me and asked me to come to his office. There, I was greeted by Tom Lennox and Bob Schottenstein, who were soliciting our firm to participate,” said Vorys, who is riding 180 miles – to Athens and back – for the third time. “This was May 2009 when Pelotonia was just getting off the ground. They were so enthusiastic and it is for such a good cause that we agreed on the spot to put together a team to participate and I signed up that very day! I’ve done a lot of rides in my life throughout the country and Pelotonia is, bar none, the most organized, professional quality and fun ride I’ve participated in.”

Most riders feel a deep connection to the cause. In 2010, Pelotonia raised $7,846,705, bringing the two-year total to over $12.3 million. Over 4000 riders rode 328,000 miles in 2010. So far in 2011, there are 3941 riders and $3,497,807 raised with 44 days to go.

“Everyone knows someone who has had or has cancer – and has seen the awful things this disease can do. This is a unique opportunity to actually do something – to raise money to fight cancer – with 100% of the money raised going directly to research,” said Kristin L. Watt ’89, who plans on riding 180 miles even with a broken wrist. “I hope we can find a cure within my lifetime. After riding in the first Pelotonia, I found it so inspiring (with all the cancer survivors lining the way and cancer survivors riding) I have ridden every year since. This is truly an emotional and powerful event.”

Miranda Leppla ’10 used her recent triathlon training as a springboard for to bike for a good cause.

“My grandmother is a cancer survivor and I have other family members and friends who are currently fighting cancer,” said Leppla, who is riding 102 miles and is part of the Team Vorys peloton. “Pelotonia is an amazing way to raise money for an institution (The James) that has a real ability to make a difference.”

Bricker and Eckler, Jones Day, Porter Wright, and Vorys, Sater and Pease have all created a peloton, which allows a group of five or more riders to share the experience. In addition to the individual rider profile pages, a separate Peloton profile page highlights the Peloton roster and members can share donations made to the Peloton as a whole and/or can share funds raised by individual members.

“My reasons for riding are several. First, I, like many, have lost family members, including my grandmother, to cancer. It’s a cause that is close to my heart. Second, the specific charity is right; I think the James Cancer Hospital is top shelf and will use the money as well as anyone,” said Isaac A. Molnar ’99, who is riding in his first Pelotonia this year. “Finally, Porter Wright’s commitment to Pelotonia is contagious. I joined PW in November. During my interviews, Pelotonia was a topic that kept coming up, and I was even asked, on several occasions, if I ride. So, great cause; great charity and the firm really gets into it.”

Porter Wright’s enthusiasm also inspired James A. King ’88, who didn’t sign up the first year, but said he “was jealous when (he) heard how much fun and how challenging it was.” Last year was his first year and this year he will be riding 180 miles to Athens and back.

While some riders like Vorys or Leppla were already dedicated cyclists, many have rediscovered cycling along the way.

“I had not ridden a bike for more than probably five miles in the 15 years preceding Pelotonia,” said Bryan R. Faller ’00, who is riding 180 miles and is part of the Porter Wright peloton. “As a result of Pelotonia, I am a regular cyclist. I ride to work once or twice a week, and ride on the weekends.”

Faller’s colleague at Porter Wright, Jay A. Yurkiw ’97, also had rarely sat down on a bike seat before hearing of Pelotonia.

“I took up cycling so I could ride in the first Pelotonia, and I’ve become a regular cyclist since then,” said Yurkiw, who will also ride all 180 miles. “A number of things inspire me, including the underlying cause and the vision of the event to become a part of the spirit of the community; the fact that 100 percent of donations go to cancer research; the challenge of training myself to be able to ride all 180 miles; and the opportunity to train and ride with colleagues at work. Since the first ride, I’ve drawn even more inspiration from the cancer survivors who ride in the event and who show up along the roadside to thank The James for all the great work it is doing.”

Others have found it a solid alternative to the pounding of daily runs.

“I rode regularly when in high school and throughout college, but got away from it for quite a while,” said David Conrad ’80, who is riding 100 miles and is part of the Bricker and Eckler peloton. “I took cycling back up as a result of Pelotonia. I now ride regularly. I used to run, but can no longer run due to a bad knee. Cycling is great exercise for me and I really enjoy it.”

As part of the Pelotonia, the organizers have recommended monthly training programs for each of the distances, including programs for beginners that include cross-training options like walking, yoga, and pilates.

“I have been cycling a little for several years. However, Pelotonia has helped to expand cycling’s popularity in Central Ohio and helped encourage me to step up my game,” said Richard J. Helmreich ’89, a partner at Porter Wright who will ride 180 miles this year.

Others are participating without riding. John B. Rohyans ’69 is raising funds while participating as a “virtual rider” this year while recovering from an injury.

“I participated in the first two Pelotonia events and it was an incredible experience,” Rohyans said. “I am really bummed out this year as I had planned to ride with my son and brother-in-law. I will be definitely be back next year, and am still raising money this year.”

Besides “virtual riding,” the event also relies on thousands of volunteers to do everything from check-in riders to assisting at the staged pit-stop areas and taking photos.

“Pelotonia is such a great event, and Jones Day has a team every year. There are tons of opportunities to make an impact with the event, and volunteering during the ride is just one of them,” said Ashley L. Gullett ’10, who is part of the Jones Day peloton and will be volunteering at the finish line in Athens. “Seeing others’ enthusiasm for the ride inspired me, as well as a desire to make an impact for my mother and grandfather, who have both beat cancer multiple times, and my grandmother, who is currently battling cancer. I’ve never been a cyclist, but just because I don’t want to ride doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference anyway!”

Also riding are: Elizabeth Dicus ’06, Greg Gorospe ’93, Rob Meyer ’78, Amber L. Merl ’06, Molly Philipps ’06, Aaron Shank ’98, and others.

Donations to riders or pelotons can be made at www.pelotonia.org. Riders, virtual riders, and volunteers can also still sign up to participate in this year’s event.

If you are riding or volunteering at Pelotonia, please share your inspiration and photos on the Alumni Notes webpage. Submissions will be included in the next edition of All Rise as well as on the Moritz website.