Life cycles

The upcoming fundraiser Tour de Lis began with five men completing an epic bicycle ride around Lake Pontchartrain to support a friend and relative stricken with cancer. Two years later the ride continues, though now the course is much less daunting and the field of participants has grown exponentially.

The third annual Tour de Lis, scheduled for April 18, is a 10-mile cycling event to raise money for local groups that support people fighting cancer. It all started in 2007 when Harold Asher and four bicycle enthusiast friends undertook the 150-mile loop around the lake in a single day to honor Asher’s cousin Josh Lipschutz. A grassroots fundraising drive raised $40,000 for that single ride, which the riders donated to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
“After that, we decided that this really has legs,” says Carol Asher, a lead organizer of the volunteer-driven event. “Everyone we knew or talked to seemed to have been affected by this disease. So we decided in the next year it would be a community-wide event rather than something five crazy guys can do.”

That meant scaling the course down to a more accessible 10-mile loop along the New Orleans lakefront. The message and the medium of cycling clearly struck a chord with locals, and last year some 500 people signed up to ride, from avid cyclists to people who borrowed bikes to participate. Heavy weather forced the actual ride’s cancellation, but participants still raised $150,000 for Tour de Lis beneficiaries.

This year’s goal is $250,000 and organizers hope up to 1,000 riders will turn out. By February, Tour de Lis already had $100,000 pledged in sponsorships alone. Riders are expected to contribute the rest through pledges from friends and family.

“It’s a great opportunity to ride in honor of someone fighting the fight of their lives or in memory of someone you’ve lost,” Asher says. “That’s why so many people have chosen to participate.”

Much of the money raised by Tour de Lis will be used directly to help locals grappling with the disease, through contributions to the Cancer Association of Greater New Orleans.

“It is important to us that this money stays local, and CAGNO is helping people get wigs and walkers, with cab fare to chemotherapy, with help with rent,” says Asher.

Another beneficiary, Planet Cancer, is a social support group for young adults fighting cancer while funding also goes to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

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