The Focus is Community for this Velocity Team

The more, the merrier for one cycling team whose focus on community is bringing people of all ages together to end cancer.

Tour de MORE, a team of faculty, staff, and community partners, including local high-schoolers, are coming together on Oct. 6 to ride in Velocity, Columbia’s annual fundraiser benefitting cancer research. To date, Tour de MORE, which stands for monitoring cancer, outreach, research, and engagement, has surpassed its fundraising goal of $10,000. 

With community partner, I Challenge Myself, the Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) program of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia encouraged local high school students to ride this year in Velocity; 15 high school students have joined the Tour de MORE team. I Challenge Myself works with teens at the George Washington High School Complex and other local New York City public schools to set physical activity goals and emphasize the importance of adopting a healthy and fit lifestyle.

The COE regularly partners with nonprofits like I Challenge Myself to engage with local New York City students and educate them about cancer risk reduction. COE’s cancer risk reduction curriculum includes discussions on lifestyle risk factors, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco products and increasing physical activity, that teens can take action on now to reduce their risk for cancer.

The group strives to reduce the burden of cancer on the communities and patients served by the HICCC and remove barriers to accessing cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and survivorship services. The COE’s focus is to not only serve the HICCC’s immediate community in Washington Heights and Inwood in Upper Manhattan, but also to expand their work across the greater HICCC catchment area. The group is currently piloting programs to increase the uptake of the HPV vaccine in Rockland county and Staten Island.

“With something like Velocity, it’s important to bring the community in, and not just our team here at Columbia and our work colleagues, but community members as well,” says Tour de MORE member, Mary Beth Terry, PhD, professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, an expert in cancer prevention research, and leader of the COE. “I really do believe in the idea that we all collectively need to engage and raise money for cancer research … and be a part of that broader community.” 

Fellow Tour de MORE cyclist, Kim Burke, operations manager for COE, works closely with I Challenge Myself and also is forging new connections within the community to engage specifically with middle school and high school students. Says Burke, “We are so happy to have some of the local high school students get involved in Velocity and to work with this group that encourages cycling and physical activity. It is so important, especially in our local community, to help make activities, like cycling, be more accessible to teens.” 

Velocity riders choose their distance—10, 25, 45, or 62.5-miles route—starting north of New York City and ending together at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center campus. 

Dr. Terry, who intends to ride the 25-miles distance, has been prepping by riding to and from her office daily, and bike-riding on the weekends with her family. Burke and Tour de MORE member, Minsang Jung, who works at the Mailman School café, have been training consistently together for several weekends for the full 62.5-miles distance. Both Burke and Jung are avid cyclists and runners, and have encouraged each other along the way on routine bike rides alongside the Hudson, in Westchester, and just last weekend, from Washington Heights to Dumbo. 

“Velocity is a great way to challenge yourself, and not just physically, but also to fundraise money for cancer, which all of us are touched by,” Burke adds. “It’s empowering to be part of a team, to get to train together, and to bring in people who may not work in cancer or in health science but have been touched by cancer in some way.”

To register for the Oct. 6th ride or for more details, visit the Velocity: Columbia's Ride to End Cancer.