“I love all of you, but I wish you weren’t here.”

-Jeff Castelaz, co-founder of the Pablove Foundation

Post by Yuri Hauswald, Community Development Manager

The tragic truth about that statement is we all wish we weren’t here getting ready to ride our bikes 550 miles from Mill Valley to Malibu to raise money for the Pablove Foundation. Being here means that Pablo died. It means that there was no “happily ever after” for Jeff and Jo Ann whose son Pablo was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer. It means that six days after his sixth birthday in 2008, Pablo passed. However, on that day, Jeff was also surrounded by a group, and according to Jeff, “on that day more than any other, our amazing community wrapped its collective arms around us—and their love inspired us.” In this exchange, The Pablove Foundation was born.

Along with the love came a lot of pain, and to process it, Jeff turned to his bike. The first Pablove Across America ride began in 2008 in St. Augustine, FL, and finished in Los Angeles, CA and had no support. Jeff was joined by Rick Babington for the entire journey, and other friends flew out to join the ride for a day or two. In the final week of the ride, Jeff had a dozen friends from LA come out to help share the work load of riding. And from that moment on, the PAA ride has only gained more momentum in its efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer.

Cancer can be a killer, plain and simple. Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the United States? Cancer claims the lives of more children each year than AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis and diabetes combined. Yet in the past 30 years only one new cancer drug has been approved for pediatric cancer treatment. The adult cancer drug treatment business is seen as more profitable, so pharmaceutical companies don’t commit as many resources to childhood cancer research. Only four pennies on every dollar spent on cancer research are dedicated to childhood cancer.

The Pablove Foundation was founded to change that. The goal of our collective pedal strokes during this year’s ride was to raise as much money as possible so that the Pablove Foundation can award grants – Pablove Seed Grants – to fund innovative research that wouldn’t otherwise get support. In its nine years of existence, the Pablove Foundation has given 2.2 million dollars in childhood cancer research grants.

When you pedal with a purpose and with other passionate/compassionate people, most of whom have been touched by cancer in some way, the miles just melt away. Every time you think about how hard it is, how much your body hurts, you remind yourself who you are riding for that day, and what they’ve suffered in such a short time on this earth. The cancer camaraderie and physicality of shared miles as a group, as a peloton, brings people together, which is a big part of why I joined Pablove Across America again this year, but as a ride leader. Being part of this cycling band of brothers and sisters for a week was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Riding with the different groups gave me the opportunity to learn people’s stories, to know them on a deeper level, to help them push physical boundaries on the bike, and to turn something as horrible as being part of the cancer community into something positive. We became a pedaling family that encouraged, cajoled, prodded, and pushed one another to finish each day.

Speaking of finish lines, when we arrived in Malibu, we were greeted by a wall of cheering family and friends. At the closing ceremony, a $250,000 grant was awarded to Dr. Muller Fabbri, a third-year grant recipient, so he could continue his cutting-edge research into finding a cure for Neuroblastoma. And yes, while we all wished that we didn’t have to be here, we were proud that our sweat equity had a tangible outcome. Our pedal strokes were making a difference in the fight against childhood cancer(s) and allowing children to lead a love filled life today and a cancer free life tomorrow.

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