They kayaked on Nebraska lakes, climbed mountains in the Cascades and ran, literally, to the ends of the earth.
All told, nearly 3,200 people from every state in the U.S. and every continent on the planet — including Antarctica — came together as one giant community to raise funds through Obliteride to support the lifesaving research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“This was such an unusual year for us,” said Jim Birrell, director of the annual fundraiser. “We had to completely reimagine the event. But we are super proud of where we are today. We met and even surpassed our goal of reaching 3,000 participants. We’re thrilled by the enthusiasm and the creative ways people participated.”
So far, this year’s event has brought in $2,175,968, bringing Obliteride’s eight-year fundraising total to nearly $32 million.
Due to the growing pandemic, funds will be split between cancer and COVID-19. The Hutch is home to world-renowned infectious disease experts and virologists, many of whom are involved with new therapeutic or preventive clinical trials for COVID-19. Funds from Obliteride will fuel both leading-edge cancer research and real-time studies to halt the COVID-19 pandemic and develop lifesaving tests, treatments, and vaccines.
But Obliteride’s orange dust hasn’t quite settled yet. Fundraising will remain open through Sept. 17 for those who still want to donate.
Birrell said the quick pivot to virtual was a challenge, but people rose to it with incredible enthusiasm and imagination. He was also impressed by the number of people who reached out to friends and family worldwide to get them to participate, as well.
“We were really able to build upon the community of Obliteride,” he said.
Along with bike rides, runs and walks, participants rowed, paddled, kayaked, yoga’d, Peleton’d and even puzzled their way through various physical challenges to meet — and in many cases, surpass — their fundraising goals.
— Obliteride participant Rex Miller (@JahNestaWailer) via Twitter
In addition to the global reach, participants set a few records and pulled off some major fundraising feats:
— Obliteride participant Carol Peterman (@CePeterman) via Twitter
This year marked the first Obliteride for Dr. Tom Lynch, who joined the Hutch as president and director shortly before the pandemic hit Washington state. Lynch, his wife and a few others masked up for a 55-mile ride around Lake Washington on Saturday, Aug. 8.
"It was absolutely energizing and wonderful,” Lynch said of his first ride. “We were wearing our Obliteride jerseys and got lots of support from people, who knew what we were doing.”
Lynch said Obliteride is particularly crucial this year because it provides financial support for fundamental science, which “is at the heart of discovery.”
“The world looks to us for innovation,” he said, pointing to the Hutch’s tagline, Cures Start Here.
“It’s not just a tagline. It really is what the Hutch is about,” said Lynch, who holds the Raisbeck Endowed Chair. “We’re the place where the ideas start. They start here, they turn into treatments and those treatments give patients hope. But it starts in these labs. You have to have new ideas — about how to approach COVID-19, about how to approach cancer, about how to prevent HIV. And those ideas happen at the Hutch.
“People look to the Hutch for progress and cures,” he said. ”That’s our job and that’s what we’re doing. And the people who support us through Obliteride make an unbelievable difference.”
Diane Mapes is a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She has written extensively about health issues for NBC News, TODAY, CNN, MSN, Seattle Magazine and other publications. A breast cancer survivor, she blogs at doublewhammied.com and tweets @double_whammied. Email her at email@example.com.
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