Monday, May 21, 2012

Granite State Ride Brings Together the Community

Granite State Quest

(left to right) Greg Saltzberg, Bruce Taylor and David Ebb, MD, who was Bruce’s son Alex’s oncologist, during the opening remarks before the Granite State Quest. Learn more about the Granite State Quest

Cancer changes a family’s life, and without support is unbearable. That is what Bruce and Laurie Taylor believe and why they and their friends from The Timberland Company created the Granite State Quest, a community bike ride through southern New Hampshire that raises money for pediatric cancer research at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children.

In 1999, when the Taylors’ son, Alex, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 8, the Taylors’ family and their community supported him as he underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. At the time, Taylor was working for Timberland at its headquarters in Stratham, N.H. Life for his 5-year-old daughter, Eliza, was turned upside down, too.

Following treatment, Alex had to re-learn how to read as well as how to do many of the other functions that the cancer and treatment had disrupted. Today, Bruce Taylor says he is grateful for the care his son received. Alex is a healthy young man. In May, Alex graduated from Mitchell College in Connecticut with an associate’s degree in graphic design.

Both Bruce and Laurie recognize the importance of raising money for cancer research and patient care. They realize that the care Alex received was the result of fundraising and research that took place years before their son received his diagnosis. After Alex was treated, Bruce ran the Boston Marathon and raised money for cancer research and treatment and participated in other fundraising activities.

Then, Bruce decided he wanted to start an event that would be open to the entire community. The mission of the Granite State Quest is to provide all individuals with the opportunity to participate in the quest to conquer cancer. With that in mind, the Granite State Quest sets fundraising goals but does not have mandatory requirements. Participants in the 100-mile ride are encouraged to raise $1,000 and participants in the 50-mile ride are asked to raise $500. The quest’s participation grew from 32 riders in its inaugural year to 100 last year, Taylor said.

Granite State Quest

Bonnie Monahan is a co-founder of the Granite State Quest. She lost a brother to a pediatric cancer.

On July 14, the quest will celebrate its 10th year. Several families who had children treated for cancer at Mass General attend. Bruce will welcome new riders as well as old friends who have ridden with him for many years. One returning rider, Jeff Ward, said he was introduced to the quest was when he was interviewing for a job at Timberland. He arrived for his interview and was invited to a spaghetti fundraiser Timberland was hosting for the quest.

Ward was a runner. It wasn’t until Bruce loaned him a bike and convinced him to do the quest in 2007 that he became passionate about biking. The event has become a yearly fundraiser for Ward. He went on to recruit a group of women and men from his neighborhood. Today, they call themselves the “Newfields Cutters.” He said he has built up support among his friends and family who make donations each year.

He loves the quest’s terrain, which showcases southern New Hampshire. The route follows three loops that start and end at Timberland headquarters. Riders travel through hilly Kensington with its horse farms, north through Durham and the University of New Hampshire and out along the ocean toward Portsmouth and New Castle.

“The day is just great fun,” Ward said. “You’re there with your buddies and your spouse and your kids are there to meet you at the end.”

Bruce says each year he’s reminded of the words Laurie used when thanking people who had helped them along their journey: “Cancer in isolation is unthinkable, with family and friends it is bearable, and with a community, you believe it’s something you can beat.”

“When you sign up, you are expanding that community,” he added.

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