Annual Report 2014
By Susan Keown
Hayley Duitch is proof that passion can have an outsized impact on advancing cancer research.
"I want to be part of finding a cure," said Duitch, who has watched many friends and family members struggle with cancer. Through fundraising, Duitch has forged a partnership with Fred Hutch that allows her to kick-start progress, even from outside the labs and clinics of cancer research.
"I'm not a scientist," she said. "I'm just a normal person that doesn't want anyone to have to go through it."
In 2013, Duitch, a resident of Mercer Island, Washington, and a business consultant, joined a small team of family and close friends to ride in the inaugural Obliteride in memory of a family friend who died of brain cancer in 2010. Duitch was drawn to the fact that all proceeds from Obliteride, an annual bike ride through the Puget Sound region, support cancer research at Fred Hutch.
Her first Obliteride finish, however, didn't come easy. While riding with a painful knee injury sustained during her training, it was the thought of the many people she knows with the disease that kept her going.
"That 50 miles was nothing compared to what they were going through," Duitch said. "Each stroke, I'd just say their names over and over and over again, just to get through it."
After such a difficult experience, some people would throw in the towel. But this year, Duitch rode again — and brought her entire company along.
"Our response was, 'Yes, how do we start?'" said Josiah Johnson, co-founder and vice president of Society Consulting, Duitch's employer, recalling Duitch's first conversation with company leadership about Obliteride.
Her pitch struck a chord with both Johnson and John Bergen, another cofounder and the president of Society Consulting. Obliteride offered a way for their company to combine two important interests: support of local charitable causes and cycling — several staff members are dedicated cyclists and the company sponsors a competitive road and cyclocross racing team.
"On every level, from the DNA of our culture, to the values of what Obliteride stood for — with this world-class research organization right here in our community — it really just touched on everything that we stand for," Bergen said. Society Consulting decided not just to form a team around co-captains Duitch and Johnson to fundraise and ride in the event, but to become an Obliteride sponsor as well.
Even with encouragement from the top, Duitch had to work to persuade some of her new colleagues to join the ride. She sent company-wide emails to rebut excuses she'd heard, from not having a bike (her reply: "We can find you one to borrow") to the ride being hard (Duitch's response: "My 14-year-old nephew did it"). She stopped to talk to her coworkers in the halls.
Duitch laughs about her enthusiasm for recruiting new members to Team Society. "I don't want to force people to do it," Duitch said with a grin, "but I definitely think, at a very minimum, 25 miles isn't that hard."
Duitch's persuasion paid off. On August 10, 2014, Team Society had 25 riders, one volunteer and one virtual rider, including all the members of Duitch's 2013 team.
Last year, Duitch gathered almost $3,000 in donations for Fred Hutch research as an Obliteride rider — no small feat on its own. But this year, thanks to her ability to inspire others to get involved, more than ten times that was raised, including over $10,000 in pledges that Bergen raised through his participation in Ride Across America, a cross-country bicycling race.
Duitch doesn't have a medical degree. Neither does she have a Ph.D. But what she does have is a contagious passion. In partnership with an organization that channels passion into cures, that's all it takes.
At Fred Hutch, our sights are set on a cancer-free future. This goal drives us to develop tomorrow's breakthroughs today. By supporting Fred Hutch, you can help propel our lifesaving research. Please give now.
Janelle Aberle; Leisa Ashbaugh; John Bergen; Brennan Brown; Steve Burns; Robin Calderon; Melissa Caplis; Rachel Cascisa; Oz Castro; Michael Closson; Dan Draves; Hayley Duitch; Franklin Huynh; Josiah Johnson; Peter Kosowski; Evan Luckey; Mallory Lux; Nina Malakooty; Kristin Manning; Kristin McNeely; Sean Norman; PJ Ohashi; CeCe Orquieza; Chaim Rosenbaum; Emil Roussanov; Simeon Rubenstein; Charley Shoemaker; Amy Wilder; Tanja Wisskirchen-Curtis