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Reason to Ride
TOUR DE PINK
Young Survival Coalition’s Tour de Pink raises funds for young adult breast cancer support.

Young Survival Coalition (YSC) kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October with the YSC Tour de Pink Lisa J. Frank Memorial Ride, a two-day bike ride on the Jersey Shore supporting the young adult breast cancer community (those diagnosed under age 40). On Oct. 1, 2022, YSC Tour de Pink riders will choose between a 62- or 100-mile route, followed by a 42-mile route on Oct. 2, with routes starting and stopping near Ocean Place Resort and Spa in Long Branch, NJ.

YSC Tour de Pink has traditionally been the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, according to Jamie Larson, YSC’s director of marketing and communications. “Every rider dollar from YSC Tour de Pink supports our programming,” she says. Riders include a combination of survivors, family, friends and advocates from the breast cancer community.

YSC supports 14,000 young adults affected by breast cancer each year. Its programs include support groups, social events, informational webinars, an annual conference and educational resources. These programs and resources are tailored to the specific needs of young people facing a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship. Funds raised at YSC Tour de Pink help the organization continue its mission of serving this particular subset of the breast cancer community.

YSC Tour de Pink started in 2004 as a “very small, homegrown, grassroots event,” says Larson, beginning with only six riders. Nearly 20 years later, YSC Tour de Pink is still intended to be a small “boutique” ride, but has nevertheless grown, with approximately 150 riders expected for 2022.

In past years, the event expanded to include rides on both east and west coasts, but it shifted to a single-location format for 2022. Larson says that YSC Tour de Pink draws participants from all over the country, with many riders traveling far distances to participate.

In 2021, the event was renamed the YSC Tour de Pink Lisa J. Frank Memorial Ride, in honor of the event’s co-founder, who died of metastatic breast cancer in December 2020. Frank was one of YSC’s original members. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s — “Back in the 90s, when there were few resources available [for this age group],” Larson says. Frank and her YSC group members came together in 1998 to address the disparities in research and support young adults facing breast cancer. Since then, YSC has served thousands of young people.

Frank was an avid cyclist and wanted to create an event to not only raise funds for YSC but also serve as a community gathering, Larson explains. YSC Tour de Pink was the ideal solution to serve the dual purpose of helping YSC fund its programming as well as encouraging camaraderie around a physical and social activity.

From the beginning, the focus was on fostering community. “YSC Tour de Pink was designed as a ride, not a race,” Larson says. The event is open to all skill levels and features additional extracurricular activities for participants to meet and get to know each other. One-hundred miles might be a breeze for some participants, according to Larson, but all riders are encouraged to stick to their own comfort level and take advantage of breaks and social opportunities.

After pushing themselves through a physical challenge, these participants feel a rush of emotion getting into the cold water. Many of them experience a sense of taking back control of their body and feeling triumph in that moment.

The fully supported ride will include marshals, bike mechanics, medical personnel, rest stops with snacks and support, and gear vehicles. After each day’s ride, participants will enjoy evening social events, dinner and plenty of relaxation time on the scenic Jersey Shore. Larson says that Saturday night’s social gathering is particularly special, as survivors and their loved ones have opportunities to share their stories.

New this year, YSC Tour de Pink has also launched the TDP Mentor Program. In this program, volunteer mentors are matched with first-time YSC Tour de Pink riders to support them as they train. Mentors also serve as built-in buddies for riders during the event. Mentors help riders learn about bike safety, make training plans, fundraise and connect to the larger YSC Tour de Pink community. Larson says cycling can be intimidating for new riders, but this volunteer-driven program welcomes interested participants while also providing YSC Tour de Pink veterans an opportunity to give back and connect with others.

The weekend culminates with a tradition known as the “rider dip,” in which riders jump into the Atlantic Ocean to celebrate their accomplishments — both in the ride itself and, for some, in their cancer survivorship. “It’s one of the most meaningful moments of the entire weekend,” Larson says. After pushing themselves through a physical challenge, these participants feel a rush of emotion getting into the cold water. Many of them experience a sense of taking back control of their body and feeling triumph in that moment, according to Larson.

In addition to serving as a fundraising event, YSC Tour de Pink continues to honor co-founder Frank’s legacy as “Rider #1.” The YSC website notes that Frank’s “energy, determination, and spirit will live on with all who ride every year.”

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