Rick Valencia and his family have long been part of Padres Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research. But this year’s fundraising event hit particularly close to home. His wife, Stacey, was diagnosed a few months ago with a rare form of gynecological cancer.
The ‘Race for Stace’ team – organized by their 27-year-old daughter Aubrey – originally set a fundraising goal of $50,000. But they continued to rise and landed on a target of $200,000. By noon Saturday, they smashed that goal and raised approximately $313,000 in Stacey’s name.
“I think it shows how much everyone just wants to make a change and find cures, but also how much everyone loves my mom,” said Aubrey, who along with her teammates wore a personalized shirt and the color orange, her mother’s favorite color. “Like everyone else, so many people donated in his honor.”
Their team of 40 was among more than 2,000 participants in Padres Pedal the Cause at Petco Park on Saturday to run, walk and bike for the annual fundraiser. Curebound, a local nonprofit organization, is hosting the event to raise funds for collaborative cancer research in San Diego County.
This is the first Padres Pedal the Cause to be held in person since the pandemic began two years ago. Last year’s event was held virtually and raised $1.5 million for cancer research.
Curebound has raised over $2.4 million at this year’s event so far, but that number may continue to grow as fundraising continues for another month. To date, this event has raised over $15 million since 2013 to fund 78 research grants targeting all types of cancer.
Anne Marbarger, CEO of Curebound, said this fundraiser is unique because the money goes to local institutions and ultimately impacts cancer research beyond San Diego.
“Our goal is to fund these early-stage ideas, which (the National Institutes of Health) are not going to give big funding yet and help them get more data and progress to the clinical stages where either a biotechnology can gobble them up, or a new company can be created to take the idea to the clinic,” Marbarger said.
Local institutions include UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Salk Institute, Sanford Burnham Prebys, Rady Children’s Hospital, La Jolla Institute for Immunology, and Scripps Research.
Reuben Shaw, director of the Salk Institute’s Cancer Center, said federal government funding for new research is hard to come by, but Pedal the Cause is helping meet that challenge. He added that the way these Curebound grants are awarded catalyzes innovation and builds on the collaborative nature of San Diego’s life science community.
“It’s so powerful…to be able to both be the researcher pushing for things, but then being at the event participating,” said Shaw, who rode the bike in the 25-minute ride. miles. “Crossing the Coronado Bridge on this glorious day in San Diego and being part of a larger community.
Plus, the funding that remains in San Diego allows them to focus on specific solutions that can benefit local cancer patients like 6-year-old Savannah “Savvy” Schwartz. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, when she was 2½ years old.
Pedal the Cause funding connected Savvy to precision medicine developed in part by Salk researchers.
“Without this research, without this grant (the money), I’m not sure my daughter would be here today,” said her father, Jonathan Schwartz, “and I strongly believe in it.”
Schwartz said Savvy is doing great — she’s still taking chemotherapy every morning, but nothing’s slowing her down as she ran the 5k with her mother on Saturday morning.
During one of the hourly spinning sessions, the Race for Stace crew pedaled in unison on stationary bikes to upbeat electronic dance music. As they cycled for nearly an hour with the midday sun beating down on their backs, the Valencians thought of Stacey, who is recovering from surgery in hospital.
“I can’t heal (Stacey), I can’t diagnose her, I can’t fix anything that’s wrong with her, but it’s something I feel I can do,” Rick Valencia said. “And (fundraising is something) that I can do to help other people like her and you never know, there might be something miraculous that comes out of it at some point that might benefit her. .”