Ultimate Cycle Challenge: 12 Years of Fighting Cancer Together

At LIVESTRONG we fight to improve the lives of people affected by cancer now. Our staff in Austin works diligently and collaboratively to help millions of cancer patients and survivors across the country navigate the myriad problems the disease brings. The only way we can achieve this is with support from donors, volunteers, advocates, ambassadors, and community events. In the small town of Holland, Michigan lies a culmination of all of these things — at the Ultimate Cycle Challenge.

The Ultimate Cycle Challenge, or “UCC,” was founded by Tony and Michelle Charameda as a way to join the fight against cancer after Tony’s sister Andrea was diagnosed. Holland is an active city with bike shops, parks, trails, and access to the beach on Lake Michigan — in the summer months, of course. So UCC was a perfect way to marry the healthy culture of Holland with the need to help thousands like Andrea fight cancer.

Now, after completing their 12th year on February 25, 2017, the Charamedas and their UCC family have raised over half a million dollars for LIVESTRONG. A remarkable feat given that Tony and Michelle both have full time jobs that are not involved with event production. This year the Charamedas, along with 23 volunteers, supported 15 charities through almost 300 participants on 28 different teams pedaling hard for 12 hours listening to 5 different bands, all to fight for those who are fighting. A lot of statistics there.

Here’s another stat for you. As the 12th hour expired in this 12th year of the UCC, another $20,000 had been raised to support LIVESTRONG, surpassing over $500,000 raised since the event’s inception.

To give you an idea on the kind of impact that a “small” event in Michigan can have in the cancer community, think about this: $720 helps LIVESTRONG support a class of 12 cancer survivors through the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a specially-designed fitness program that helps patients and survivors regain their health and strength post-treatment. You do the math.

There’s one more added piece of magic that I was privileged to experience this year. Last summer Tony and his son Anthony bolstered their fundraising efforts outside of the UCC. They raised funds for LIVESTRONG on a trip to summit eighteen 14,000 foot mountains in the Rockies by dedicating each day to a cancer warrior. To celebrate yet another striking blow to cancer, Michelle invited me to Anthony’s last home basketball game for the West Ottowa Panthers the night before UCC was to take place. Little did I know that this game was also the “Purple Power” game where players dedicated their night to a cancer survivor by giving them a miniature game ball and wearing a jersey with the survivor’s name on it. Anthony picked me.

Before the game began, the announcer introduced the players. “Senior, Anthony Charameda! Anthony is wearing the #3 jersey tonight in honor of Mike Thompson, a four-time cancer survivor visiting all the way from Austin, Texas.”

I was speechless. Hyperbole notwithstanding, it was one of the greatest moments of my life. Anthony quickly sprinted into the bleachers, gave me the game ball and a hug, and retreated back to his team. It was perfect.

The rest of the weekend was as inspired as always. Hugs and high fives. Smiles and tears. Sweat and saddle time.

I am so very thankful for this family and this community. Without events like the Ultimate Cycle Challenge — and people like the Charamedas who make them possible — LIVESTRONG would not be able to provide life-changing programs and services to millions of cancer patients and survivors.

I cannot wait until lucky #13.

Mike Thompson is a 4x cancer survivor, and Community Engagement Champion at LIVESTRONG.