NMDP Cycle kicks off fundraisers for blood stem cell transplants

Initiative aims to help eradicate treatment barriers in SCD, blood diseases

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by Mary Chapman |

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A coin is seen hovering above the money slot on a pig-shaped bank.

NMDP Cycle is kicking off cycling events throughout the U.S. to raise funds to help eradicate barriers to treatment for patients, including those with sickle cell disease (SCD), who need a blood stem cell transplant.

Formerly known as the Be The Match Tour de TC, NMDP Cycle is an initiative of NMDP. That organization was previously known as the National Marrow Donor Program and Be The Match. The NMDP connects patients and donors for stem cell transplants.

The six-ride tour began March 30th with Eclipse Over Texas — with cyclists trekking across the state from El Paso to Austin to catch the solar eclipse — slated to finish on April 8th, the organization noted in a press release. Five other rides will take place throughout the summer: among them, one through California’s wine country, one through the Midwest, and one along the northern shores of the East Coast.

The annual fundraising goal is $300,000. NMDP Cycle will use the money raised to help those with blood disorders, such as SCD, as well as individuals with as many as 75 different blood cancers, including leukemia, gain access to cell therapy treatments.

Specifically, the rides will help fund patient assistance grants and studies aimed at improving transplant outcomes. Funds also will support the NMDP Registry.

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Last year’s ride raised over $200K for blood stem cell transplants

In last year’s program, 33 NMDP Cycle participants rode 1,990 miles, raising more than $200,000, and the NMDP Foundation provided $5.6 million in financial assistance grants to 2,600 patients and their families.

For this tour, each ride will have up to 25 cyclists, including transplant recipients, donors, doctors, and other NMDP supporters. All six rides have varying lengths and degrees of difficulty.

“I am alive today because of the selfless act of a blood stem cell donor,” said Bob Falkenberg, founder of the NMDP cycling program.

“I started biking when I first began my healing journey post-transplant and quickly realized I could use my passion to help others. This year, I will ride more than 3,000 miles all to raise funds and awareness towards the mission of NMDP,” Falkenberg said.

Following a leukemia cancer diagnosis and a blood stem cell transplant in 2009, Falkenberg went from barely being able to walk to participating in 100-mile bike races. That led to him joining cycling fundraisers for NMDP, during which he was known for stopping at transplant centers, seeking to inspire hospital patients and staff.

We expect this year’s NMDP Cycle events to be bigger than ever and are excited to offer rides of varying levels so anyone can participate and join this powerful movement.

Thus far, Falkenberg has cycled more than 25,000 miles for NMDP Cycle, raising more than $150,000.

“Bob is an inspiration, and we are so grateful for his vision and dedication to offering hope and resources to transplant patients in need,” said Joy King, NMDP’s chief advancement officer.

“His efforts to fundraise and bring awareness to NMDP have benefited so many people in need of lifesaving cell therapy,” King said.

In addition to the Texas event, other rides will include:

  • Napa Wine Country, May 12-17, featuring daily rides out of California’s wine country
  • Milwaukee vs. Chicago, June 22-23, with riders starting and finishing in the Wisconsin or Illinois cities
  • Boston Coastal Tour, July 14-20, with participants starting and finishing in the Massachusetts capital
  • Ride Pennsylvania, Aug. 3-10, with riders beginning in Pittsburgh and ending in Philadelphia
  • Minneapolis One-Day, with cyclists starting and ending in the Minnesota city on dates still to be announced.

Registration is open for ride participation or donations to support the cyclists and the patient community. Each ride has its own participant capacity, registration fee, fundraising minimum, and registration deadline, usually one month prior to the scheduled tour.

Fundraising commitments vary among rides and are $250 for one-day excursions, $1,000 for two-day rides, and $2,500 for full rides. Each rider is expected to fulfill their fundraising commitments by the end of the year. If not met by that time, the remaining balance should be donated.

Registration includes an NMDP Cyclist jersey, lodging, fundraising support, luggage transport, water and snacks, and help with routine bike repairs. Rider and bike transportation also will be provided as needed. Costs related to travel, meals, and other expenses occurring during the ride will be covered by the riders themselves. Cyclists are also expected to bring their own gear and equipment to the ride.

“We expect this year’s NMDP Cycle events to be bigger than ever and are excited to offer rides of varying levels so anyone can participate and join this powerful movement,” King said.