Pedals and Mettle
Cycling for the Cause
Bryan Gregston was just beginning to feel tired on the last stretch of the 2000 Tour de Cure in Loveland, Colo. He had made the drive out to the cycling event alone that day, leaving his wife at home with their 3-year-old son Parker, who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes about a year earlier.
"I was riding the 75-mile route, and I remember on this big climb it had this sign, 'Remember who you're riding for,' and it just stuck in my mind," Gregston says. That was enough to help him make it across the finish line, where he saw exactly who he was riding for: Parker. Gregston's wife, Amy, had decided to bring him out to the race as a surprise.
Last year, more than 33,000 cyclists participated in 78 Tour de Cure events throughout the year, raising nearly $13 million for the American Diabetes Association in its mission to prevent and cure diabetes and improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. Each Tour offers different ride distances; this year's Colorado Tour at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on Aug. 23, for example, will include a 100-mile (160-kilometer) ride, a 62-mile (100-kilometer) ride, a 31-mile (50-kilometer) ride, and a 12-mile (20-kilometer) ride.
The 2007 tour was Parker Gregston's first to ride 31 miles on his own. "I saw a lot of other people with diabetes shirts on," Parker, now 11, says, "and I thought, it's cool having other people like me riding with me." That year, the Gregston family team, Parker's Pedalers, had 40 riders and raised more than $24,000, making them the top fundraising team in one of the biggest Tours in the country and helping the Colorado event make a major advance in fundraising, says Tour de Cure Associate Director for ADA in Colorado, Sara Prevost.
"I think we made that jump with personal communication and personal connection," Prevost says. "That's what [teams like] Parker's Pedalers have done, too. They keep recruiting new people to be on their team, and those new people recruit new people. If one person has a good time, they're going to share it with someone else."
That doesn't mean the ride was easy, says Parker: "I really felt it the next day—but it was a good workout!" An enthusiastic athlete, Parker has played tackle football since second grade, and recently made the top team in his area for competitive soccer. He skis with his family in the winter, and will soon be setting out to try lacrosse, too.
"Parker is ultra-competitive," says his dad. "He and his sister would compete brushing their teeth if they could find a way to do it." The entire family shares that spirit. Bryan Gregston, who will be riding with their 7-year-old daughter Tatum in tandem, hopes to recruit 50 riders to Parker's team this year, and increase their team's fundraising goal to $35,000.
How to get involved
You don't have to strap on a helmet and ride 100 miles. Register for a short ride along comfortable trails. Serve water to riders at rest stops along the course. Volunteer your services on-site at a Tour event, especially if you're a medical professional. Help set up booths with medical supplies, food, and water. Make phone calls before the event to spread the word. Staff the registration booth on the day of the event. Donate to a friend who is riding. Just show up at the event and cheer the riders on! For more information, visit www.tour.diabetes.org.
"Ultimately, everybody wants the cure, and that's obviously the largest goal of all," Gregston says. But he adds that there are plenty of other things that need to be accomplished to help people with diabetes and that are also supported by the funds raised at Tour. "[We need the] support," he says, "whether it's advocacy or just knowing that ADA supports groups out there that reach out to other families."
Amy Gregston adds that sharing this sense of purpose with other bicyclists is very rewarding. "You look around and think about how many people here [at Tour] have diabetes and have to go through what we have to go through," she says. "You have your teams, but you're all one huge team, because you're working toward one giant thing."