Pedaling for a purpose: Group of friends takes 800-mile bike ride for a good cause

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A group of friends put on their helmets and headed out on a more than 800-mile bike ride for a special cause.

The dozen or so men are traveling from Norfolk, Virginia, to Savannah, Georgia, to celebrate two cancer-free friends.

Ahamadu Sirleaf went through two treatments as he battled leukemia, one at Johns Hopkins in Maryland and later at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Both of those treatments were unsuccessful.

He traveled all the way to Seattle to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where he finally received a successful treatment.

“We’re making every day count, right? Every day, we’re going to find a way to celebrate,” said Sirleaf.

While receiving treatment, he joined Obliteride, which raises awareness and funds for cancer research through cycling.

He officially went into remission last April. He said he was initially intimidated by how far he and his friends would be traveling for the ride.

“Then I thought about the days that I spent in my hospital bed looking through my window wishing I was out on my bike,” he said. “And I was like, ‘I’m going to do it because I know how it felt that moment.'”

For Alexis Richburg, who took a break from riding for three years while battling carcinoid syndrome, he says this ride is all about the three C’s.

“We’re out here pedaling for a purpose,” he said. “Cancer, culture and cycling. With cycling being the bond that connects all of us and it brought all of us together.”

Sirleaf says his biggest setback during his treatment was a lack of matching bone marrow donors, specifically African American donors, in the registry.

He and his friends hope this ride can raise awareness so someone else won’t have to go through what he did.

“We’re trying to come together to bring attention to certain things that are dear to us so that we can raise awareness and increase the number of Black donors to the national registry of donors,” said fellow rider Augusto Macedo.

Along their way to Savannah, the group will stop at historic Gullah Geechee sites to celebrate Black history and African American contributions.

The Gullah, who are direct descendants of the first Africans brought to the states as slaves, were relatively unknown to some of them.

They’ll be making stops in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, as well as on St. Helena’s Island in South Carolina before finishing out their journey in the Hostess City of Savannah, Georgia.

The group is collecting funds for Obliteride and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

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