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Team Will to ride for kids with cancer

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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Riding across the country on a bicycle is not for the faint of heart. The wear and tear can leave riders with sore muscles as well as fatigue and pure exhaustion. But all that pales in comparison to what kids with cancer go through. The surgeries. chemotherapy and radiation treatments ravage the body. It?s these kids that the members of Team Will are riding for, as the team of mostly local riders leave San Francisco on Sunday for a 10-day journey across the country on bike before reaching Boston on July 3. The purpose of the trip is to raise money and awareness for kids battling cancer around the country. While the ride across the country garners the most attention, every rider on the trip will tell you it is all about the kids. ?The story is the kids, their families and the significant physical and emotional pain and challenge that comes with battling such a relentless and heartless disease,? said Lisa Depew, a Folsom resident and support staff member and driver for Team Will. ?We obviously have and want to share moments of inspiration and hope and happiness; seeing the kids have fun in the play room or light up when they sign our jerseys because they?re our heroes, but there?s also an element of sadness and loss as one out of four of these children will die. When Team Will comes in these hospitals and can help these kids smile, play games, take their minds off their situation for a brief while and give the parents some much-deserved relief, even for a few moments, that?s when we can say we accomplished our true goal.? Team Will is a group of 18 riders and a support staff of around 10 who will be making the trip across the country, visiting hospitals and attending other community events along the way. Most of the group is from the Sacramento area, include Lisa?s husband, John, who will be participating in the fourth ride across the country. John, 44, rode in the initial ride in 2006 and the event is held every two years. The Depew?s are El Dorado Hills residents and have two young boys, ages 6 and 5. ?When I first heard about the ride I just thought of it as a cross country ride done in 10 days, but once you start visiting the hospitals and seeing and meeting the kids, it changes the dimension from the cross country ride to really being about helping others. It?s a long ride and it can be tough, but once I start thinking about my heroes, the kids who we?re riding for, it?s hard to complain about a bad day on the bike compared to the challenges they?re facing. My attitude to myself is, quit your whining and keep riding.? Fellow Folsom resident Rob Strong, 48, is also a member of Team Will. The ride hits particularly close to home for Strong, as one of his heroes is his daughter, Tanya, 19, who has battled cancer for a decade. ?She?s been through the gamut of surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy,? Strong said. ?Unfortunately, there is no cure for it. These kids are pretty inspirational. When you?re out on the road and you?re hot and tired and sore, I gain inspiration and motivation by just looking at their pictures. The main reason we?re doing this is as advocates to these kids. They?re our heroes.? Carmichael resident Jamie Johnston, 54, also has an interesting perspective on the ride. He is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with malignant melanoma more than 20 years ago. ?I?m lucky to be alive,? Johnston said. ?My personal view, as a cancer survivor, colors my view on this. I?ve never given back much; never done much community service and I always thought that I should do that so this is my way of giving back.? Other members of the team include riders Tony Reyes and Tom Weissgerber of Folsom, Brian Williams and Mauricio Solis of El Dorado Hills, Rex Gordon, Julie Ryan and Andreas Schulten of Cameron Park, Ken Scarberry and Randy Pench of Sacramento, Ricky Ng of Fair Oaks, Mark Ruanto of Woodland, Jonathan Weast of Rancho Cordova, Tim Brooks of San Diego, Greg Hadfield of Lakeport, Riley Adams of Westerville, Ohio and Amy Chow of Austin, Texas. Drivers include DePew, Ernie Holly from Pleasant Hill, John McCardle of Sacramento and Larry Nevers of Shawnee, Kan. Roxie Allen and Reta Jones of Fairfield serve as ambassadors. Team Will?s goal is to raise $125,000. Anyone looking to contribute to the cause or to learn more about the organization can visit their website at team-will.org.