The battle against cancer is never ending.
That's why the Loup Valley Road Riders continue to host the annual Spring Fling, and why Dr. Ken Cowan, director of the UNMC Eppley Cancer Center, is so grateful for all the support he can get to help fund cancer research.
While a small-town motorcycle club and a big-city research center seem like unlikely partners, for the past 12 years the Loup Valley Road Riders and Eppley Cancer Center have been just that. The motorcycle enthusiasts love to find a reason to get together and share their hobby, and love even more being able to help others as a result.
The Spring Fling is hosted by the club each year on the weekend after Mother’s Day. This year marked the 15th for the annual event.
In the early years, the club designated a cause each year to contribute funds raised at the Spring Fling. But 12 years ago, after several members of the club had either developed cancer or had close contact with someone who had, the members decided to make Eppley Research Center their beneficiary. They have been contributing money to the center each year since.
This year, the Loup Valley Road Riders raised $2,250 for the Eppley Research Center. They presented a check to a representative of Eppley July 13, at a special meeting at Tumbleweed Cafe in Broken Bow.
On hand to receive the check was Tom Thompson, Senior Director of Development for Eppley Cancer Center, UNMC.
“I always enjoy the opportunity to visit with the people out here about a disease we wish we didn’t have to know anything about,” said Thompson.
In thanking the group for their contribution, Thompson noted that though the center is in Omaha, Eppley is “Nebraska’s cancer center - from east to west.” Thompson also informed the group in attendance that relations are being formalized to try and make clinical trials available at hospitals all across the state, so people don’t have to go clear to Omaha for their treatments. Thompson says that is a few years out.
“Your dollars are important - private dollars play an important role in the research process,” Thompson told the road riders. “We have some big plans and lofty goals in terms of where we want the cancer center to go in the coming years.”
Thompson says the master plan is to build a cancer campus, so to speak, which would house all the cancer center facilities in one building rather than the seven currently used. “That is a $100 million project.”
“Efforts like this and people across Nebraska who come together like this, is what gives us the inspiration to do projects like this,” said Thompson. “We all come back to the hope that research is leading to new and better treatment.”
Dr. Cowan himself has traveled to Custer County a number of times to personally accept the group’s donation. The Loup Valley Road Riders have also made a trip to Omaha in the past to tour the cancer center, and get a first hand look at just where the money is going.
Since 2003, the UNMC College of Nursing Cosmopolitan Mobile Nursing Center has been going to the Spring Fling to provide cancer educational materials as well as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, skin cancer and breast cancer.
Raffle drawings are held throughout the weekend event with the money raised being donated to the cancer center. Anyone is welcome to attend with any form of transportation they choose - in other words, you do not have to be a motorcycle rider to enjoy the Spring Fling.
Folks camp out in the yard of Lyle Runyan near Sargent, one of the founding members of the club. Activities traditionally include a hot dog roast, games, live music and, of course, a motorcycle and car run. Dates for the 2012 Spring Fling are May 19 and 20.
“This is something that will never change - except to get bigger and better!” said Runyan. “We know it isn’t a huge gift, but it is given with our hearts.”