Why I Ride

Denise Schoeneck shared her story of why she participated in the Ride for Alive! last year and why she will participated again this year.

My name is Denise Schoeneck, last July I completed my first 50 mile bike ride in support of the Alive!Foundation in memory of three very special men, my nephew Steven who was 17 when he passed away after a heroic struggle with AML leukemia; my brother in-law Michael Schoeneck was 50 when he passed away after a lengthy battle with brain cancer; and my dear father in-law John Schoeneck; lost his battle to prostate cancer in 2011.


I have never been an athlete and I didn’t even own a road bike until two months prior to the ride.  I am in my early 50’s and to say I was stepping outside my comfort zone was putting it very lightly!  My life was changing; I had some free time on my hands so I started a few spinning classes in the winter.  It was a great way to burn a few calories; it is a great workout; there is no traffic or cars; you’re planted in one spot and most importantly people don’t generally fall off a spinning bike!  As the winter passed to spring and my class buddies were getting excited to go outdoors to ride.  I listened to their excitement and in my mind was thinking “there is no way I’m getting on a bike and riding outside!”


Our spinning class was invited to attend an informational session on a local charity ride and so I decided to go.  The speakers were Julia and Michael Wamp and they told the story of Julia’s battle with cancer and the journey their family endured.  I had experienced closely the journey of my 17 year old nephew’s battle with cancer and knew the impact cancer can take on the patient and also the family.  I was moved by their passion and mission to help those who have battled and survived cancer.  My first thought was to just write a check to support them and leave, but then something set off a spark in me and the next thing I knew I was heading to Syracuse bike to buy a bike and start my training for a 50 mile ride!


My friends and relatives thought I was crazy, and at many times throughout my training I thought they were right!  It was really hard to get on a bike, I was a complete novice and had no knowledge of anything to do with road biking.  I had a great group of very experienced people to ride with but I needed to find a fuel to motivate me through the training.  So I kept in my thoughts my love ones who had died and of all the people out there with cancer, who endure horrific treatments in the hopes of becoming well again.  I also put in perspective a 50 mile bike ride on one day compared to the journey of a cancer patient, it was like apples and bananas.  My bike ride had a clear picture of where my finish line would be.  I imagined a person battling cancer, who endures months and sometimes years of physical and emotional pain and treatments, only to be left with no clear vision of their finish line.  All of these thoughts help to propelled me to finish the 50 mile ride.


The men I rode in memory of did not survive their illnesses, but there are so many who are cured and can claim they are SURVIVORS!  I was determined with those survivors in mind to help raise awareness and funds for the mission of the Alive!Foundation.  I did find the fundraising an easier task than the ride training.  My friends and family could sense my passion for supporting cancer survivors through Alive!Foundation.  It was easy for me to explain the mission of Julia to develop and fund programs specifically designed for cancer survivors; programs to educate and empower the survivors to help them reach the finish line with a focus on movement, exercise and nutrition.  When I shared this with people they were happy to join in and support the cause.


I will close by saying God has blessed me with a wonderful life and I am grateful every day I am on this earth.  Still not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my loved ones; I move forward with a prayer and hope for a brighter future for those who survive these dreadful illnesses.


I hope you will consider stepping out of your comfort zone and ride with us on July 13th.