Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ride for the Roses (RfR) Day 1

Today started early at 5:45am. I got up to shave my head, shower and drive to the airport. Just my luck, the NJ Turnpike was bumper to bumper and then the security check point at Newark airport was very long. I just made it to my flight on time. The flight was good. No issues at all. The time flew by and before I knew it we were in Austin.

After I got off the plane and found the Lance Armstrong Foundation table I met John Patterson. John and his wife were in town for the Ride for the Roses and were giving the LAF a nice check from their fundraising efforts. Nice! John is from NJ and I read an article on him several months back. It was great to finally met my fellow testicular cancer survivor. John is a good guy and raises a lot of money for the LAF.

The Ride for the Roses weekend is terrific. The LAF does an outstanding job honoring their top fundraisers from across the country. It is funny to say that and know that I am one of those top fundraisers. I did not know what to expect when I started the fundraising, but I did know that I would work my butt off to ensure I gave it my all (this includes my wife working her butt off too.)

After I checked into my hotel I went down stairs to register for the weekends events. As always, the LAF was very generous to give GREEN Jersey member (those who raised $15,000-$20,000) several misc. items, gym bag, t-shirts, a jacket and a green jersey. The LAF staff who helped with the check-in were a pleasure to speak with and met. They gave us a schedule of events for each day and they really went above and beyond to show us a good time.

After registration I had an hour and a half to settle in and get walk around near our hotel (Hyatt Regency.) At 4pm the GREEN JERSEY members loaded onto a bus and we went to met Lance Armstrong. I am not big on meeting famous people as I truly believe the are the same as you and me, but today is different. I was not excitted to met Lance because he won 7 Tour De France races. Honestly, I look at it as an outstanding physical achievement (one we may never see again) and I admire him for it, but I was more excited to met the man who has inspired me and thousands of other cancer survivors. Lance is a great example of a person who utilizes his celebrity to champion a worthy cause. He may be famous but he took the time to meet with all of us one on one for an autograph and a brief (very brief conversation.)

So....what do you say to someone when they have inspired you to be a better person and make a difference in the fight against cancer? I walked up to him and said, "My name is Brian Dowd and I just want to thank you for inspiring all of us and leading the fight aginst cancer. You are doing great things and do not stop." Lance in return thanked me for my efforts and autographed my green jersey right shoulder with a silver marker, which looks great with the black background. This will get framed and hung on my wall at home along with the Ride for the Roses autographed poster.

Tonight we went to a local ranch, TDS Exotic Game Ranch, were we had a great Texas BBQ dinner and some fun events like mechanical bull riding, silent auction, awards presentations and entertainment by rising Country Music star Jack Ingram. Oh what a night! The LAF did a great job ackowledging all of their top fundraisers. It was said that the 123 people in the room raised over 2.x million dollars. To put that into perspective they stated that we represented 25% of all funds raised by the LIVESTRONG Challenge series. We represented < 1% of all participants, but together we raised 25% of the money. How amazing is that? It was an honor to be acknowledged with such a distingused group of people.

I was able to meet so many people who I have talked to over email, blogs and forums for the LAF. It was a great day and I look forward to tomorrow. I only wish Kristy could be here with me to experience this outstanding LAF weekend.