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Credit: Sage Ross | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center has teamed up this year with the Breakthrough Bike Challenge, an annual bike ride to support cancer research based in the Philadelphia area.

The organization, established in 2014 by several Philadelphia residents and avid bike riders, aims to combine a desire for an increase in cancer research and a love for bike riding. The organization has long strived to emulate the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual bike ride and fundraiser in Massachusetts that benefits the Harvard-affiliated Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

The BBC aims specifically to provide funding for researchers and doctors who may not have access to funding from the National Institutes of Health and gives 100 percent of funds raised directly to researchers and physicians.

Christopher Hall, a founder of the BBC, said that they hoped to “support young investigators who have not yet qualified for a large NIH grant.” In providing funds to younger or newer researchers in the field, Hall noted that they “hope to jump start promising ideas.”

This year, however, the BBC has begun a partnership with Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Dr. Jennifer Pinto-Martin, a fellow founder of the BBC and chair of the Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences at Penn’s School of Nursing, said that the organization met with Dr. Chi Van Dang, the director of the Abramson Cancer Center, in September of last year to discuss the the BBC and its goals for the future.

The BBC and its annual ride had already attracted riders and supporters from the Penn and Philadelphia community alike, soliciting significant donations in its first several years of fundraising. The event initially included one ride, but has expanded in years past to 12, 25 and 50-mile options to accommodate the growing amount of participants and volunteers. The 2016 BBC will be held on June 19 on the Daniel Boone Homestead in Berks County, Pa.

In their initial meetings, Dr. Pinto-Martin noted that the ACC was attracted to the BBC’s homegrown, grassroots nature, as well as its commitment to donating 100 percent of funds raised to research. Rather than using a significant portion of the funds to cover administrative costs, as has been done in other rides such as the Pan-Mass Challenge, the founders of the BBC felt it was important to donate all funds raised directly to research, instead relying on themselves and sponsors to cover the cost of the ride.

The partnership, still in its first year, has led to significant growth.

Hall noted that given the nature of an official partnership with Penn, soliciting sponsors for the event has been made much easier. That, along with the work and support of Caitlin Crowe and Kara Bradley of the ACC’s development office, have been “manna from heaven” in organizing and growing this year’s ride.

In collaborating with the Development team, the BBC has been able to “establish a nice group of corporate sponsors,” and thus “the fundraising has expanded considerably,” added Dr. Pinto-Martin.

The organization has set a fundraising goal of $250,000, more than twice what the organization raised last year, and Dr. Pinto-Martin said that the organization is well on its way to achieving the goal.

Beyond fundraising support, having guidance from Penn on how to organize the funds raised has helped streamline the process of distributing donations for research.

"[It is] critical to have Penn’s input on how best to distribute the funds,” Hall said. “We’ve adopted a system by which young researchers apply for funds, and then subject matter experts rank the various proposals.”

Doing so ensures that donations go to the best ideas and proposals put forth by up-and-coming researchers.

The BBC board and its volunteers aim to grow the ride in the years moving forward, getting more riders involved and increasing their fundraising goals to better support researchers and physicians at the ACC.

“We anticipate great things for the the BBC,” Pinto-Martin said.

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