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Dr. Kaaron Benson (left) with Dr. Alan List (right)

Today was our second leg of the ride to the State Capitol, making our way from Ocala to Lake City. Our motivated team of Cure on Wheels, Inc. cyclists toughed it out with summer-like temps in the high 80s and the humidity to match. Lots of flat tires for the group, but the team pitched in to quickly get everyone back on the road again. We welcomed a reprieve from the sun under the shaded canopy of the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, and enjoyed lunch at beautiful Westside Park in Gainesville. 

As challenging as today sounds, it doesn’t come close to the first day of my first Capitol Ride in 2018. It was cold – 37 degrees Fahrenheit – with strong headwinds. We rode 98 miles from Moffitt to Ocala through very hilly San Antonio. Happy Hill Road did not make me very happy. 

After that, we were treated to riding most of the Withlacoochee Trail, an old rails-to-trails project that is flat and hugged by dense vegetation. When I phoned my daughters that evening to say I’d completed the 98-mile day ride (the longest distance of my life at that point), my oldest daughter, Sara, suggested that I go back outside and do a quick 2-miler to get my first “century ride.” There was no way that was going to happen!

Our last long day of cycling was my first 100+ mile day. Knowing that each rotation of the pedals meant that I pushed myself a bit further down the road became my primary thought: “Just another rotation.”  Knowing that I was helping to increase awareness of the need for cancer research funding at Moffitt was my motivation.

As director of Moffitt’s Blood Bank, I understand how important volunteer efforts are to our mission. Close to 6,000 of our patients used over 30,000 blood components last year, a demand we would not be able to meet without generous volunteer blood donors. I’ve tried to do my part in that effort, donating more than 20 gallons of blood since I was in high school. 

Giving my time and effort as a cyclist on the Capitol Ride was one more way to help by bringing attention to Moffitt’s mission and our need to fund research and growth. The vision of our founder, former Florida Speaker of the House H. Lee Moffitt, has been realized in that we have a superb cancer center here in Tampa. But Moffitt needs continued legislative support and funding in order to advance the fight against cancer.

The best part of the Capitol Ride is riding as a group in matching cycling jerseys right up to the steps of the Florida Capitol on Moffitt Day and being given “high fives” by Lee Moffitt himself.  We are inspired at the annual welcoming press conference in the Capitol Rotunda, listening to the stories of the cancer survivors and their hard work as they fought their cancers.  Much progress has been made to date. Moffitt’s exciting prospects for the future will require continued support and funding. And the Capitol Riders will continue their annual 326-mile trek to Tallahassee to remind our lawmakers of that need.

This story was written by Moffitt Physician Dr. Kaaron Benson