Tour-ing for a cure

Published 9:49 pm Monday, April 29, 2019

Hundreds came to the Suffolk Executive Airport early Saturday morning with their bikes and running shoes. It was breezy morning with a cold chill, but the festivities heated up as roughly 500 cyclists gathered at the starting line around 7:30 a.m.

Then, after the national anthem was sung and skydivers descended with the American flag in clear blue skies, cyclists kicked off the 2019 Hampton Roads Tour de Cure in earnest.

“It’s just a really beautiful day,” said Amber Parris, 33, who was part of the Kicking Asphalt race team with Ryan Claudon, 33, and others. “It’s the perfect day for riding.”

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The Hampton Roads Tour de Cure is an annual fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association’s research, education and advocacy efforts. Its second year at the Suffolk Executive Airport drew more than 800 participants to ride, run and walk in support of loved ones and others affected by diabetes.

The event featured 12-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile routes for cyclists and also a 5K run and walk. Runners and walkers did laps around the airport, while cyclists were southbound on the road — with “century” riders going as far south as Hertford, N.C.

Routes had been adjusted from last year to avoid rough patches of road. Rest stops were placed so that riders didn’t stop too frequently but still got breaks when they needed them. The path was well marked and even had some friendly families that waved at riders as they pedaled along.

“I thought it was great,” said Parris, who had come from Alabama for the Tour. “It was a nice mixture of flat riding with a couple hills.”

Finishers were greeted by applause at the airport and even high fives from several Star Wars cosplayers of the 501st Legion. They also enjoyed the numerous activities for Red Striders and Red Riders — those participating with diabetes — as well as the many other friends and family members.

Suffolk BBQ Co. served post-ride meals, and each finisher also enjoyed a complimentary beer poured by Smartmouth Brewing of Norfolk or Tradition Brewing of Newport News. Skydive Suffolk conducted the morning’s flag jumps, and the Fuzz Band provided live music.

There were also important medical checks offered at the Wellness Village, including free blood glucose and blood pressure screenings by ECPI/MCI University, A1C tests by Eastern Virginia Medical School and certified diabetes educators with Bon Secours, Sentara and Riverside hospitals, plus Bayview Physicians.

“We hope the community was able to come out and take advantage of those (resources),” said Robin Kantor, director of development for ADA Hampton Roads. “We’re excited to have these resources for people.”

This year’s event has raised more than $360,000 towards the ADA’s $525,000 goal, with more fundraising still to be accounted for.

The top individual fundraiser was Jeffrey Saunders, with $30,501 as of Monday evening. The top family/friend team was Team Portsmouth with $35,666, and the top company team was Team Doboy with $31, 961.

“Give yourself a round of applause,” LeAnne Rains Benedetto of the ADA told the Saturday morning crowds from the stage. “That is a tremendous accomplishment.”

Benedetto is a Type 1 diabetic, as is Maddy Sershen, a teenaged youth ambassador for the American Diabetes Association. She rode this year with her father, Rod Sershen.

Benedetto and Maddy thanked the hundreds of fundraisers gathered on Saturday for their support in the ADA’s efforts to help diabetics fight this disease.

“The money you raise helps Maddy and I to manage our diabetes better through so many avenues, and that’s why we both so appreciate … everything you’re doing this morning,” Benedetto said.

For Maddy, it’s also about feeling the support of a whole community.

“I just get to see all the people here,” she said. “It’s a community. Just to see everybody come out and support diabetes as its own thing — it’s awesome.”

Visit diabetes.org/hrtdc for donations and other information.