The organization is welcoming family involvement as a new digital platform replaces the annual bike rides. A 12-year-old from Galena has raised close to $10,000.

Though Pelotonia has called off its traditional weekend-long biking event due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization still is forging ahead with plans to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. 

Pelotonia launched the digital platform My Pelotonia on June 2 that “allows everyone the opportunity to creatively find what Pelotonia will mean to them this year,” says Eric Olsavsky, the organization’s director of community engagement and partnerships. “Instead of everyone getting together on a bike, it could be a cumulative mileage effort over the summer months, or it could be one day a year you say, ‘I’m gonna go ride 100 miles,’ ” he says. “If you’re a runner, you can do some sort of running event. If you’re a walker, it can be all about walking this summer, and it can also be about community impact or volunteerism.”

With My Pelotonia, there is no registration deadline—participants can sign up whenever they want and raise money until the Oct. 31 fundraising deadline. And the amount a participant raises is completely up to them, Olsavsky says. “With people during tougher economic times, we can’t hold them to their fundraising commitments, and so we waived those this year,” he says. “That allows people to come in and whether you raise $10 or $100 or $10,000, all that money matters."

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Another traditional barrier that’s gone is the age limit for participants, which typically required a rider to be at least 14 years old due to safety concerns. Now, families are encouraged to get involved with Pelotonia. “It has been really fun to see this engagement with a new population because it’s kids that may not have been able to participate with us in the past,” Olsavsky says.

One of those children is 12-year-old Marley Lewis of Galena, who has been selling custom purple-and-green Pura Vida bracelets since December to raise money for cancer research. The purple represents the color of the awareness ribbon for all cancers, and green is the signature Pelotonia color. 

When Marley was 9, her mother was diagnosed with tongue cancer. At a Pink Out middle school football game last October, Marley wanted to put her mom’s name on a sign since she had beaten cancer, even though it wasn’t breast cancer. Marley was told by a teacher that her mom “didn’t have the right cancer” so she couldn’t make a sign, she says. Instead of letting this situation negatively affect her, she used it as inspiration. “That’s when I realized we have different days for different cancers, but we shouldn’t have that because we want to find a cure for all cancer, not just one,” Marley says. “That’s when the idea to customize bracelets came to me to donate to Pelotonia so they can find a cure to cancer.”

The bracelets cost $20, and all proceeds go to Pelotonia. Since she began selling them, Marley has sold more than 400 bracelets and has raised over $9,900. She hopes to reach $11,500 by the fundraising deadline and wants to continue raising money after this year’s campaign ends. “I see myself going pretty far with it, even to opening a store with a bunch of shirts, bracelets, sweatshirts,” Marley says. For now, Marley’s bracelets can be purchased through the Facebook group All Cancers Matter Tribe:

A shorter version of this story appears in “Parent Pulse” in our Summer 2020 issue.