By Lynne Morioka - Contributor

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Blue Cross geared up to fight cancer in inaugural Chainbreaker race

September 15, 2017

When it comes to finding a cure for cancer, Blue Cross put the pedal to the metal. The company’s Eagan campus was host to this summer’s Chainbreaker, a three-day cycling fundraiser to benefit research at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center.

This was Chainbreaker’s inaugural event in Minnesota, but it won’t be the last, according to its president and founder, Tom Lennox.

“We had great success in Columbus, Ohio with Pelotonia (a similar two-day cycling event) which, to date, has raised nearly $160 million for cancer research,” Lennox said. “This (Minnesota) community stepped up big time in the first year with over 1,000 riders, each raising a minimum of $1,000 for cancer research.”

Blue Cross team members geared up for the ride

One of the Chainbreaker riders on Team Blue Cross was Tom Vanderheyden, president of diversified business strategies. He was joined by seven other Blue Cross employees, who rode anywhere from 20 to the full 200 miles.

“We had a fantastic experience,” said Vanderheyden. “Our threesome rode together for 52 miles. I’ve done several rides and thought this was the best-produced ride I’d ever seen. It was first rate.”

Vanderheyden raved that everything from the weather to the police escorts to the volunteers was perfect. But he was most enthusiastic that 100 percent of all funds raised will benefit the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor who pays for all event production costs.

Connections to cancer motivated riders

“I have connections to cancer, so that was a motivator for me,” Vanderheyden said. “I was not anticipating the connection to the volunteers – they were so engaging, positive and grateful for us participating. Many of them were tied to the cause in some way. I became more connected to the cause throughout the event for sure.”

Lennox, a cancer survivor, knows firsthand the physical and emotional toll cancer has on a patient and their family. “The unfortunate reality is that it’s rare to know somebody who hasn’t had an experience with the disease. And if they are lucky enough not to have experienced cancer, there is an unfortunate high likelihood they will.”

Looking to the 2018 race

A group of eight riders represented Blue Cross during the inaugural event. After a successful first year, Vanderheyden is confident that participation in Chainbreaker will grow significantly next year – an opportunity Lennox anticipates and appreciates.

“Companies like Blue Cross have a huge impact on our success,” he said. “Our movement is all about meeting people. When companies like Blue Cross invite us out to hear our story, there’s a good chance they’ll respond by forming a cycling team. Then, if our team does a really good job delivering an amazing year-round experience, the cycling team generally grows over time.”

 

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