Originally created 06/08/06

Spokesmen for a cause

Troy Willard pumps his bike down the road for diabetes. Mike Miller's wheels turn for children's hearts. And Austin Bauman and Tom Reardon are pedaling for pennies for children with cancer.

In the next few days, three separate and unrelated cycling teams supporting children's causes will arrive in or depart from Augusta. And they are all doing it for separate but similar reasons.

Mr. Willard, an Augusta teacher with type 1 diabetes, is headed to California to join a team of other type 1 riders who will be competing in the 3,000-mile Race Across America. They hope to raise $1 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and, more importantly, to inspire those with the disease.

"(We're) really hoping that people can get children out so we can inspire them," Mr. Willard said. "Everybody needs it, but the children especially because they're so vulnerable and kids like to pick on other kids that are a little bit different in certain ways. Help them to realize it's OK to be this different."

Already the team has raised $225,000, said team co-founder Phil Southerland. It is hoping for more through the sale of its "Racing for a cure," wristbands, similar to the "LiveStrong" bands sold by the Lance Armstrong Foundation that have led to $14 million in cancer research grants from the cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner.

"What Lance Armstrong has done for cancer, we'd like to do the same for diabetes," Mr. Willard said. "And hopefully raise money to find a cure. I can't think of any better way to do it."

Dr. Miller wears one of those LiveStrong bands as he talks about his team in the Bike Ride Across Georgia beginning this week and their goal to raise money for the Children's Heart Program at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center. Their motto is "Riding for Stronger Hearts," said Dr. Miller, vice president for enrollment and student services at MCG.

"Both for ours, because it's an aerobic exercise and for the children we hope to help," he said. And it gives him a great excuse to push himself athletically in a sport he enjoys.

"That's part of the driving force behind some of my cycling is I have a goal or an objective that is bigger than I am, that's important to other people," he said. "And that makes it a lot of fun."

Mr. Bauman and Mr. Reardon, recent graduates of Vanderbilt University, aim to ride 5,000 miles, "peddling for pennies," to raise money for childhood cancer. They arrived Wednesday in Augusta as their second stop. They are honoring children with cancer in each of the 20 cities where they will hold a fundraiser.

At their first stop last week in Atlanta, however, their honoree, 18-year-old Matt Hobby, died from Ewing's sarcoma just before the fundraiser.

"That kind of hit home," Mr. Bauman said. "We're doing this for Matt."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.


While charity bike riders roll in and out of Augusta in the coming days, there are easy ways to keep up with them:

The Heart Team: Dr. Mike Miller of the Medical College of Georgia will chronicle his journey during the Bike Ride Across Georgia, which begins Saturday in Dalton and ends June 17 in Augusta. To see his blog, log on to: blogs.augusta.com.

Racing for a cure: Augustan Troy Willard is among a team of type 1 diabetics who will be competing in the Race Across America, beginning Tuesday in Oceanside, Calif., and ending in Atlantic City, N.J. Along the way, the team aims to raise $1 million for diabetes research. Follow their progress through a blog with videos and photos at: www.teamtype1.org.

Peddling for Pennies: Vanderbilt graduates Austin Bauman and Tom Reardon are doing the Rally Across America, a 5,000-mile journey to 20 cities this summer, which included Augusta on Wednesday. Follow them at: www.rallyacrossamerica.org.


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