Pastor Randy Jones of Radcliff United Methodist Church, along with thousands of other cyclists around the world, is pedaling to fight childhood cancer by participating in the Great Cycle Challenge.
“If you’re going to drive, go ahead and drive for kids,” he said.
The Challenge is a national initiative of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund to be held in September. According to the website, people of all ages, abilities, and from every state across the country are setting themselves a personal driving goal and challenging themselves to pedal to fight childhood cancer.
Jones’ goal is to raise $500 and drive 200 miles.
According to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, more than 15,000 children and young adults are diagnosed with cancer each year — about 43 a day.
While the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer has reached 80%, the CCRF website says that nearly 2,000 children under 19 die each year, making cancer the number one killer of children from disease.
And that’s only in the United States. More than 300,000 children and young adults were diagnosed worldwide in 2016, the CCRF website reported.
Jones started joining the initiative four years ago after the Great Cycle Challenge appeared on his Facebook page.
Jones used to be a minister in Upton and befriended Ted and Heather Jones and their son Evan. Jones said that when Evan was younger, he was diagnosed with a rare childhood bone cancer. Now he is cancer free and going to university.
Jones will ride in the Great Cycle Challenge ahead of Evan and Jackson Roark, 13, who died in July after his own battle with cancer. Jackson was Jones’ neighbor during his time as a pastor in Owensboro, where he was before taking his pastoral role in Radcliff in June.
“(Jackson) was diagnosed with the rare bone cancer two years ago,” Jones said. “He was a great kid. He was funny. He just had a great sense of humor. … I ride for him, and I will continue to ride for him even when he’s not there.”
Although he started participating in the Great Cycle Challenge four years ago, Jones started cycling about 20 years ago after participating in a spinning class at his gym.
“I was addicted,” he said. He bought a hybrid bike and started riding. A few years ago he was able to buy a racing bike. There is a sticker on the bike that reads ‘Suffering Dan’.
The man who sold the bike to Jones was in remission after a rare esophageal cancer. The emblem was given to him by his friends during his cancer treatment. A year after Jones bought the bike from him, the man’s cancer came back and he died.
“I ride for him and I ride for kids,” Jones said.
According to Jones, his desire to ride also stems from his faith as a United Methodist pastor.
“I think it’s important for us to take care of ourselves physically… because it helps our spiritual bodies. And if I can do my exercise to help someone else, I will,” he said.
Jones encouraged other cyclists to participate in the Great Cycle Challenge. To learn more about it, they can go to greatcyclechallenge.com.
Although the challenge will take place in September, Jones said people are able and encouraged to go ahead and make donations. To help Jones reach his goal, people can go to the Great Cycle Challenge website and search for ‘Randy Jones’ where they can also track his progress. A direct link can be found on Jones’ Facebook page.
“We need to beat children’s cancer,” Jones said. “…We can make a huge difference. Cyclists from all over the world are doing it.”
Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.