Cycling cross country for cancer

David Hare
David Hare

Ret Boney

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Last summer, when he was 18, David Hare climbed on his bicycle, rallied a group of 15 co-cyclists and led a 3,700-mile, cross-country ride.

That trip, dubbed Cycle20Ten, raised about $25,000 to fight cancer, bringing to almost $44,000 the total amount Hare has raised for the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center, which cured his mother of breast cancer.

Hare’s mother was diagnosed with the disease just after his family moved from England to Chapel Hill when he was 10 years old.

Thanks to prompt treatment at Lineberger, Hare’s mother is cancer-free almost a decade later.

And Hare, now a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, has discovered a passion and skill for raising money and volunteering that he hopes to parlay into a career after leaving college.

He’s well on his way, having received the 2010 Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy Award from the Triangle Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for the work of Cycle20Ten.

Hare’s love of philanthropy began through Boy Scouting, which he joined in England and continued when he moved to the U.S. in 2001.

In 2007, when he was 15 years old, his assistant scout master, Brian Burnham, invited Hare to join him, one other adult, and six high-school kids on a cross-country bicycle ride called Washington or Bust, or WABU.

Hare agreed, but wanted the ride to have a higher purpose by raising money for Lineberger.

“I always wanted to do something to thank them and give something back,” Hare says of Lineberger’s treatment of his mother’s cancer. “They managed to fix it and minimize what it could have been.”

That trip alone raised $18,600, but Lineberger wasn’t the only beneficiary.

“That was a life-changing trip for me,” he says. “It’s a sense of independence and a sense of how much you can do that I don’t think most people are aware of in high school. It gave me a sense that I could do a lot more than I thought I could.”

And having cancer research and treatment as the ultimate goal of the ride imbued the project with added meaning.

“That added a new sense of importance to the trip,” says Hare. “It’s not just for you anymore – it’s for other people.”

The experience ignited a passion for giving back that Hare was able to nurture a few years later when he and other Boy Scouts spent two weeks building a house for a family in Guatemala.

The group put in “a lot of man hours,” says Hare, but the bond he formed with the family, and the fulfillment he felt from helping out, were the most rewarding parts of the experience.

So when, during his freshman year of college, Hare got call from Brian Burnham to co-lead another cross-country cycling trip during the summer of 2010, he agreed.

“I knew I couldn’t sit at home and watch it go by,” he says of the opportunity. “With the Scouts, you just kind of go with the flow – you just go and make the best of it.”

As co-leaders, Hare and Burnham split the planning duties, with Hare focusing on fundraising and Burnham taking on the logistics.

At the time, Hare was just 18 years old and less than a year out of high school, but already showing a knack for leadership, says Burnham.

“He just throws himself into whatever he’s doing,” he says of Hare. “He’s a great leader – it takes a special person to fit into that kind of role and he’s done it really well.”

To raise money and awareness in advance of the trip, Hare coordinated a letter campaign to family and friends and conducted radio interviews with local stations.

And throughout the trip, Hare and his crew called in to a Chapel Hill radio station with updates on the group’s progress.

Over about 68 days, the crew of two leaders and 15 participants cycled about 70 miles a day – half that distance while traversing the Appalachians, the Cascades and the Rockies – camping out at night at local parks.

Barely recovered from the Cycle20Ten trip, Hare now is weighing the option of accompanying Burnham on yet another grueling trip to raise money for the Lineberger Center.

This summer, Burnham will lead a group of 15 to 20 people through the Camino de Santiago, a 450-mile, 1,500-year old pilgrimage through northern Spain that ends where St. James is said to be buried.

Should Hare accept, the aspiring business major will gain additional experience for what he is confident will be an ongoing passion.

“I want to keep doing things like that and work with different charities,” Hare says. “I like to put more work into that than other things.”

That said, he plans to continue his relationship with Lineberger, which not only saved his mother but has served as a common passion for them both.

“It’s been a good way for me and my mom to work together and have something in common.”

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