Spinning for a Cure: DCC Spin-a-Thon Raises Funds for Cancer Research

It wasn’t the encouragement from classmates and friends that gave Celia Schieffelin the will to pedal a stationary bike for a solid hour, but the courage of a 50-year-old woman who’s been battling cancer for the past three and a half years.

“She’s my motivation to keep going,” said Schieffelin, an 18-year-old University of Miami freshman, referring to her mother, Barbara Burg. “I’ve seen how driven and determined she’s been throughout her fight, and she inspires me.”

Schieffelin was one of more than 100 students and employees who donned workout clothes and sneakers last Wednesday to pedal, pant, and perspire at the Dolphins Cycling Challenge Spin-a-Thon, which is geared to raise funds for the lifesaving treatment and research programs at UM’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Held in the massive atrium of UM’s Herbert Wellness Center, the event is a “spinoff” of the much-larger Dolphins Cycling Challenge in which hundreds of cyclists will take to the streets November 2 and 3, completing routes ranging from 13 to 170 miles.

Funds for both events are pledged via Web pages set up by riders. Schieffelin’s fundraising amount: $32,100 — and counting.

Participating in the spin-a-thon was Schieffelin’s way of empowering herself. “I realized this was something I could do to help, the opportunity I had been seeking for so long that would help my mother and others by raising the money needed to advance cancer research,” she said.

Burg was diagnosed in April 2010 with colorectal cancer, which eventually spread to her lungs, liver, and brain. Doctors told her she’d be lucky if she lived to see her daughter graduate from high school.

She has survived because of groundbreaking treatments like gamma knife radiosurgery, a focused radiation treatment that targets specific lesions in the brain.

“I’ve had so many hurdles to clear,” said Burg.

She didn’t find out about her daughter’s participation in the spin-a-thon until she received an email link to Schieffelin’s fundraising Web page.

“I was a little surprised because Celia’s always been a relatively private person,” said Burg, who works in the New York office of Reuters news service. “We don’t spend a lot of time in our family discussing my illness. We try to enjoy our lives and do everything we can to not be defined by it. But I was not at all surprised at what Celia’s accomplished with her fundraising. She’s a go-getter, and when she puts her mind to something, she gets it done.”

At Wednesday’s spin-a-thon, other participants had reasons to spin that were just as compelling.

Joanna Lorenzo, a receptionist at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, did it for her father, Omar, a lymphoma survivor.

Kyle Merino, a biomedical engineering major, raised funds and hopped on one of the 37 stationary bikes in memory of his grandfather, who died of liver cancer nine years ago. “Every little dollar helps toward research and finding a cure,” he said.

For Zelda Calvert, a senior administrative assistant at Sylvester, it was the memory of her father, John Pollard, that gave her the strength to spin for more than an hour. Pollard died of pancreatic cancer, a condition Calvert didn’t know he suffered from until his passing. He had kept his illness a secret.

Now, Calvert wants to make sure everyone is aware of the need for cancer research.

“Working at Sylvester, I see how cancer impacts so many lives,” she said. “Raising awareness through events like this couldn’t be more important.”

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