Sun, sweat, and smiles combined on Aug. 12 and 13 as thousands of people gathered in Seattle for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center’s 10th annual Obliteride weekend.
A record-breaking 5,500 people on more than 450 teams joined this year’s celebration, virtually and in person, to have fun, honor loved ones and raise funding and awareness for groundbreaking research at Fred Hutch. The in-person event kicked off Friday evening with a party at Gas Works Park featuring food, beverages and live bands.
On Saturday, with clouds overhead and cheers all around, participants biked 25, 50, or 100 miles, walked or ran a 5K, or volunteered, then celebrated their accomplishments with food and music. Others chose their own activity and completed virtual challenges from around the world. All told, over its 10 years, Obliteride participants, donors and sponsors have raised nearly $40 million (and counting) to help Fred Hutch advance prevention, treatment, care and cures for cancer and infectious diseases.
Since 2013, Obliteride has supported more than 200 projects and 70 researchers at Fred Hutch. Thanks to the outstanding generosity of event sponsors and partners, 100% of participant-raised dollars go directly to work.
“This year marked our first in-person event since 2019,” said Obliteride Director Jim Birrell. “The energy just lit up the weekend. It felt so good to be together again.”
Fred Hutch Chief Nursing Officer and GI Oncology Nurse Practitioner Dr. Terry McDonnell harnessed that energy at the 5K start line on Saturday morning. “Thank you for being here, thank you for your commitment, and thank you for your courage,” she said, as the crowd raised a cheer. “Let’s have fun together, support each other, and cure cancer faster!”
Gee Scott, co-host of “The Gee & Ursula Show” on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM — and Gameday host for the Seattle Seahawks — served as emcee, rallying the crowd from the early hours of Saturday morning to the afternoon party.
“Every participant, and each of the donors they inspire, has a personal reason for supporting cancer research and Fred Hutch,” noted Kelly O’Brien, Fred Hutch’s vice president of Philanthropy. “Powered by urgency, this extraordinary community is turning hope into action.”
“My 13-year-old daughter asked me why I do this,” said 10-year Obliterider and Team NanoString captain John Barton. “As I told her about the too many people who I wished she would be able to meet, I realized that while I do it because of the people we've lost, I'm now doing it for the next generation.”
Angela and Owen Pearson rode to support the research “happening in our own backyard” at Fred Hutch. Angela noted that new advances in immunotherapy treatment saved the life of someone she rides for. “That’s because of the research happening at Fred Hutch,” she said.
“The older you get, the more people [you know] with cancer,” added Owen, who has participated since Obliteride’s first year. “Every year I do this, I ride for someone new.”
Second-year walker Pashmi Vaney, who participated to honor a family member in treatment, said the event provides year-round motivation to exercise. “I said to myself, ‘I am going to walk, I'm going to step outside. … I need this for myself.’ That's how it started, and now walking is a habit!”
Volunteers and virtual participants were also part of the fun. This year, more than 530 volunteers were on hand to support participants, and thousands of people completed their own activities to support Fred Hutch.
“I love helping run the Obliteride rest stop,” said longtime volunteer Andrew Taylor. “It’s the only time all year I tell people what to do and they actually do it!”
Reggie Kimborough and Sophe Ap, former research scientists at Fred Hutch, came out with their son and daughter to support Fred Hutch’s mission. Obliteride is “a good time for the entire family to practice giving back,” Kimborough said.
Around the world, virtual participants were out in force not only on Saturday, but all season long.
“I'm a cancer patient at Fred Hutch, so all these fundraising efforts and support mean so much to me,” said Lianne Horvath, of Kirkland, who rode a custom 25-mile bike route with her family on Saturday.
Hutch postdoctoral fellow Dr. Reema Jain is captain of team “Are We There Yet?” She and her team hiked in national parks across the U.S. to raise funding and awareness, including treks in Washington state and Wyoming. Team member Nitish Anand said, “I Obliteride to do something positive, not just for the Hutch, but the wider community as well.”
From his home in Luxembourg, Ekim Dinc rode his bike this summer to honor his late father, who inspired him throughout his life. “My father was a true believer of science,” said Dinc. “He …taught us to walk in the light of it.”
This year, more than 500 Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center employees were also all-in to help cure cancer faster through Obliteride. “Ultimately, we are here to work ourselves out of a job,” said Erica Karlovits, captain of Team Supportive Care at Fred Hutch. “We’re all treating and supporting our patients every day. Obliteride is a way to contribute to curing and ending [cancer].’”
Speaking from the stage during the Friday night party, Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, president and director of Fred Hutch and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair, shared the impact Obliteride has — not only as a fundraiser, but as a place of healing and connection. “Cancer does not affect one person, and one person alone,” he said. “Cancer affects a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a family, a community. And we built this community together to be able to bring the resources we need to go and fight cancer. I could not think of anything more worthwhile than what we are all [doing] … and what Fred Hutch is going to continue to do for so many years until cancer is cured.”
So far this year, the Obliteride community has raised $3.6 million. Participants will continue to accept donations until fundraising closes on Friday, September 30.
Thanks to the Sloan Foundation, University Village, Amazon, Sinegal Family Foundation and other sponsors for their generous support of Obliteride.
In April 2022, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance became Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, an independent, nonprofit organization that also serves as UW Medicine’s cancer program.
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