When acclaimed fitness instructor Bethany Diamond created the very first Ovarian Cycle ride in Atlanta in 2004, she couldn’t have known that a decade later, Ovarian Cycle would become part of OCRF and thousands of participants across the country would have helped raise over $2 million to support ovarian cancer research through more than ten rides nationwide. Her story begins with a dear friend, a devastating diagnosis and the desire to make a difference.
“My friend, Debbie Green Flamm, inspired Ovarian Cycle. She loved to exercise, feel good and maintain her health. Debbie and I first met when we were in college. We became very close after college, when I was married, she was engaged, and the four of us did everything together. We spoke daily and, after my husband, she was the first person I told that I was pregnant with my first child.
When she was diagnosed, I had no idea what ovarian cancer was or how devastating it could be. During Debbie’s illness, I tried to spend time with her just visiting and talking. Our group of friends enjoyed a great weekend at her in-laws’ mountain house just before a recurrence. It is a wonderful memory. I did get to see her one final time when she went into hospice care. I made her laugh; that memory stays with me.
Debbie passed away from ovarian cancer on December 14, 2003, at the age of 43. I knew I couldn’t bring her back, but I could do something to honor her memory and those like her who had lost their lives to ovarian cancer. I could do something for her daughter, for my daughter, for my sister, and for my friends. I could Ride to Change the Future. Soon, we also had a shorter event called Ready. Set. Ride! And, the clever name, Ovarian Cycle, came from one of my male personal training clients who suggested it.
The names were the easy part. We faced many obstacles in those early years when trying to launch an Ovarian Cycle event. But I was persistent and knew that with the help of some very smart, tenacious people we could pull it off and make it a success. We wanted anyone to be able to do this. Participants can be of all ages and cycling experience, they don’t need to own their own bikes, they don’t need to be a gym member, they don’t need a helmet, they can’t get lost, they can enjoy great food, beverages, energy and music, and there’s always a bathroom down the hall. They can ride the full six hours or share a bike with a team of family and friends, just like Debbie’s daughter, nieces and nephews all ride as “The Little Debbies” team in her honor at Ovarian Cycle Atlanta every year.
At each event, an empty bike is kept at the front of the room to represent all the women who would ride if they could. Empty, it makes quite a statement. And when you see people bringing their balloons with names and messages written on them to tie onto the bike in memory or in honor of someone loved, it’s inspiring, and a little heart breaking, especially when the bike disappears under the balloons.
We’ve come so far since those early days. It’s so humbling to see all the folks who are riding, doing something so difficult to support someone going through something even more difficult – ovarian cancer. They cannot share the cancer experience, but they can show them that they will support them. It’s a big thing to ride a bike for 1 hour, much less 2, 3, 4, 5 and certainly 6! Every year, a special camaraderie develops. At the final hour I ask everyone riding to hold hands, sing “We Are The Champions,” and look around to embed that powerful moment in their memories. The room is electric and gives me chills. Each year it looks a bit different, but every year it is awe inspiring.
In 2004, our first ride in Atlanta raised nearly $80,000. Today, I’m so excited that we’ve crossed the $2,000,000 fundraising mark, have expanded to 13 cities, and keep growing! This success is a tribute to our incredible volunteers, donors, sponsors and participants. I encourage everyone to join an existing ride, and if there isn’t a ride nearby, consider hosting a ride in your city. There are people out there just waiting for you to step up and give them a platform to honor or remember their loved ones, or to empower and celebrate themselves as survivors. Be the person who starts a new community, sets the wheels in motion, and brings others together to support the cause.