Unique cycling event to support cancer survivors
The Saluda Grade is a famously steep and winding stretch of highway between Tryon and Saluda in North Carolina.
For cyclist John Cash, it’s an opportunity to take on a challenge in pursuit of a good cause.
Cash is set to once again lead a cycling event he has dubbed the Climb to Conquer Cancer. Now in its 13th year, the ride raises money to support Gibbs Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program.
Cash and the other cyclists depart from Caro-Mi Dining Room, located on Highway 176, just outside of the town of Tryon, and head up the Saluda Grade and back down. Cash makes 10 round trips – a total of about 80 miles and plenty of steep switchbacks. Not every participant completes all 10 trips. There’s no official finish line, and the ride isn’t intended to be competitive
This year’s event will take place on Saturday, April 29, starting at 8 a.m.
The Climb to Conquer Cancer raises about $10,000 each year.
“I think it helps me to feel like I’m doing something, instead of just talking about cancer,” Cash said. “It’s a small way for me to make a difference.”
Cash’s efforts, indeed, make a difference.
The Gibbs Cancer Center Survivorship Program supports patients and former patients. Participants enjoy nutrition classes, exercise programs and other wellness activities. They also form supportive connections with cancer center staff members and with one another.
Program Director Stacey Williams said Cash’s contributions make a difference in patients’ lives.
“When a cancer patient finds themselves struggling to adjust to their new normal, we can put them at ease by offering six visits of therapy at no cost to them,” Williams said. “When a cancer patient is in search of a safe space to share their experience while fellowshipping with other survivors, we can offer them group therapy. When a cancer patient wants to relax and silence their anxiety around their diagnosis, we can offer them a monthly painting night. All of these offerings are because of John Cash.”
You can learn more about the survivorship program here: https://www.spartanburgregional.com/services/cancer/cancer-survivorship.
Cash lives in Landrum. He and his wife, Diana, own Nature’s Storehouse, an organic food store in Tryon.
He’s also a member of the Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Cancer Division board.
An avid cyclist, Cash has been influenced by cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s commitment to supporting those fighting the disease. While Armstrong’s career as a professional cyclist ended in scandal, Cash notes that he continues to correspond with and make personal visits to cancer patients.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cash would frequently visit Gibbs Cancer Center to talk with patients – just to keep them company or offer words of encouragement.
“I don’t consider anyone a stranger,” he said. “I hope to get back to it soon.”
In the meantime, he is preparing for his 10 trips up and down the Saluda Grade. He rides more than 250 miles a week and said he’s feeling strong.
Cash is inspired by the idea of helping those who have battled cancer to look to the future with a positive, healthy mindset. And he’s inspired by those who participate in his ride and have given in the past.
“I think back about a little girl who brought her piggy bank to our store,” he said. “She had $11 – every penny she had. Her aunt had passed away from cancer, and she wanted to make a donation. That meant a lot to me.”
Since its inception, the Climb to Conquer Cancer has raised approximately $120,000, and Cash is as enthusiastic as ever.
“I’m glad to be part of this,” he said. “It’s bigger than any of us.”
For more information about the Climb to Conquer Cancer, call Nature’s Storehouse at 828-859-6356.
To make a donation to the Gibbs Cancer Center Survivorship Program, visit https://www.regionalfoundation.com/ways-give/cancer.