In 2000, Boyne City resident Kathleen McDonald was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. While going through treatment, she looked for a way to combine her love of cycling with breast cancer awareness, in hopes of providing support and testing to women in Northern Michigan.
While searching the internet, she found Kathy Betz and Bike4BreastCancer. Kathleen gathered family and friends together, set a date for the Inaugural Charlevoix/Emmet County Pink Ribbon Ride for June 18, 2003, and planning got underway. Sadly, she lost her battle in January 2003. It was the goal of everyone involved to make this event happen, and on a beautiful day, it all came together.
That first ride raised $10,000, and so began a decade of Pink Ribbon Rides in Kathleen's memory. Over that period, this event raised nearly $300,000. After 15% going to the national B4BC organization, we were able to give back nearly $210,000 to the community for testing, support and education. Since 2014, 100% of the proceeds after expenses is spent right here in Northern Michigan.
In 2014, the torch was passed from single leadership to a group of remarkable women, the name was changed to Bike4BreastCancer – Northern Michigan, and in 2016 our venue moved from Veteran's Park in Boyne City to East Park in Petoskey.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy on not fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates
As we celebrate our 15th anniversary, we are closing in on $300,000 to the community. Not only does this money provide testing, support, and education through the Kathleen Jontz Breast Health Fund at McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation, it has been used to help purchase the latest technology in detecting breast cancer.
We think of Kathy often. This ride came about because of her passion and vision, and it is an honor to carry on in her memory.
Kathleen Jontz was a nurse and a young mom when she moved to Petoskey with her husband in 2000. Because of her bubbly personality, generosity, and adventurous lifestyle she quickly became well-loved in her newly adopted home. Kathleen always had a smile on her face, love in her heart, and a willingness to try anything. In 2003 she found a lump and received the news that she had breast cancer. Being the fighter that she was, she quietly set about conquering this disease. Although she fought bravely to stay with her sons, her loving husband, and her many loyal friends, on October 30, 2008, she lost her battle.
Kathleen never asked anything of her friends, except that they are sure to get regular mammograms, her goal was always prevention and early detection. She never wanted another mom to have to leave her children. A small group of friends carry on Kathleen’s wishes through the Bike4Breast Cancer ride and the Kathleen Jontz Breast Health Fund. It was a natural fit to join the Kathleen Jontz Breast Health Fund to the Bike4Breast Cancer ride because Kathleen’s wish was to ensure that every woman, regardless of financial circumstances, will have access to regular breast health screenings, already the Bike4Breast Cancer Ride mission. Thank you for helping us to carry out Kathleen’s wishes. Please consider donating to the Kathleen Jontz Breast Health Fund.
In September 2002 Jan Fenske was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a long and courageous battle, she died on March 10, 2005, leaving us far too early as she had just turned 50. Jan rode in the inaugural and second years of the Pink Ribbon ride even though she was sick. In the second year it was very cold and she was struggling with her battle to beat the cancer, but ride she did. It was simply that important to her. She never quit fighting, she never quit living – her spirit and strength were incredible.
Jan worked for the Department of Natural Resources and became the State’s first female fisheries biologist. She was one of the most conscientious, hardest working individuals and she never shirked her responsibilities, nor did she ever try to avoid the most difficult of tasks. Her counsel and advice were widely respected, and she always had an opinion or idea that ultimately changed things into something far more meaningful and successful. She never had a hidden agenda -- it was always about others, not her.
Her love for her fellow humans, zest for life, positive can-do attitude, courage, and strength were treasured by all who knew her. She will always be a part of us and her life adventures are forever deeply woven into the fabric and spirit that make up the people she knew and so loved. Jan’s attitude, her desire to mentor, and most of all her memory will continue to shape what we do, and how we do it, long into the future. As Ursula K. LeGuin once wrote, “It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” That is how Jan lived her life. There can be no better legacy…
Jan loved it when her special wishes came true during her illness, although the most special wish did finally evade her. Jan’s memorial as a sponsor of the Pink Ribbon Ride is to honor her in a way that was truly important to her before her death. Of even more significance to her, however, would be ensuring that in the future every option to help women make their special wish come true is made available. You can be sure Jan approves and is smiling down on all of us. Thank you on her behalf for supporting the Pink Ribbon ride.
Tim Leeper & Patty Trayser Leeper
Tim Leeper of Mackinac Island is an amazing man. He left San Diego, CA on January 7, 2010, riding his bicycle by himself without support, and arrived in St. Augustine, FL on March 2, 2010. During this adventure, he encountered people and places and situations that he would never have imagined.
What is the story behind this? Patty Leeper discovered she had breast cancer not long after they were married and she was pregnant with their daughter, Arial. Tim told her she could take any trip she wanted, but a cross-country bicycle ride was the only trip he desired, and he wanted her to come with him. Patty lost her battle with breast cancer in 2001; Arial started college in the fall of 2009; it was time to make good on his promise.
Tim contacted Bike4BreastCancer in January of 2009, wanting to promote awareness and raise money for breast cancer programs offered locally. It was a good fit.
During his 55 days on the road, he hit some bad weather, and there were some difficult and not-so-nice experiences along the way. But through it all, Tim's faith and positive everything happens for a reason attitude kept him going when others might have quit.
Through the sale of his beautiful and unique artwork and pledges, along with a painting we raffled off, Tim raised nearly $13,000 to help women in Northern Michigan receive testing and support.
Tim is a wonderful artist, and each time he sells a painting he has the buyer make out a check to this event and we honor his commitment by remembering Patty.
Our dear friend Bonnie Heins was a longtime supporter and participant of the Bike 4 Breast Cancer Ride. She had a lengthy career working as an x-ray technologist with the last 11 years working in Mammography. She was a dedicated employee, focused on providing the best imaging possible for the northern Michigan patients that used the McLaren Northern Michigan breast health services. She was thorough, compassionate and dedicated to her job, fellow employees and her patients.
Little did Bonnie know that she too would become a breast cancer patient. In November of 2010, Bonnie was diagnosed with breast cancer and fought a tremendously stoic battle until February 2017. During this time frame, she provided unparalleled strength and support to her fellow breast cancer patients and survivors and they looked to her as a source of strength and hope.
She lived a fulfilled life beginning in Minnesota, then traveling to Sitka, Alaska where she met her husband Rick of 25 years. They together moved to Michigan where she took on her family at McLaren Northern Michigan. Bonnie enjoyed the outdoors, her beloved golden retrievers, and was an accomplished seamstress. Bike 4 Breast Cancer will be another way to continually support survivors and remember Bonnie and others who have lost their lives.