Going the distance

[This article appeared in the Harrison News-Herald of Cadiz, Ohio.]

By ROBERT A. DEFRANK

News Herald Staff Writer

AFTER GEORGE Madzia of Adena passed away in November of 2002 from melanoma, his son decided to help find a cure, even if meant traveling across the width of the nation.

Kevin Madzia, 39, of Pittsburgh, Pa., will participate in the Coast-to-Coast Community Challenge, a bicycle tour organized by the Cycle America touring company. About 50 bicyclists will set out from Seattle, Wash., June 20 and pedal their way to Gloucester, Mass., on Aug. 21. The bicyclists will be riding for the charities of their choice.

Madzia had heard of marathon events to raise money and awareness of melanoma research. A lifelong bicyclist, he decided to put his hobby to use in a similar way, saying this method of raising funds was fitting since his father was also a dedicated bicyclist who passed on his love the activity to his son.

“When I was growing up we did a lot of biking toward Adena and into Cadiz,” he said.

Madzia was planning to participate in a two-day bicycle tour from Pittsburgh to Adena during Memorial Day weekend. For the past five years he has been involved with the two-day MS 150 tour from Pittsburgh to Lake Erie to benefit multiple sclerosis research. This will be his first time in a nine-week-long event.

“As a cyclist I always dreamed of doing a trip like this, and after my father’s death I wanted to do something about melanoma. After I heard about Coast-to-Coast, the two fit together perfectly,” he said.

He was also inspired by Steve Farrell, a recovered melanoma patient who ran the New York City Marathon in 2002. Farrell started the Miles for Melanoma marathon program and inspired other fund-raising events. Madzia has been in contact with Farrell via e-mail and said Farrell has given him several tips on how to organize events and find donations. Madzia’s goal is to raise $10,000 in contributions for melanoma research. So far, he has more than $7,000 from the Pittsburgh and Adena areas.

“I’m thankful for all the support I’ve gotten,” said Madzia. “I’m coming close to reaching my goal and I’m amazed at all the help.”

Madzia will pay $4,000 fee for his room and board during the tour. While some participants use part of their donation funds to pay their fee, Madzia will put up his own money.

“I wanted to tell people that everything they give is going directly to the cause,” he said.

As a self-employed consultant, Madzia was able to arrange his schedule to fit the planned fund-raiser. He is currently preparing for the rigors of the tour.

“I’ve been trying to ride as much as possible,” he said. “I’ve been taking short rides over the week and longer rides over the weekends. I try to get 200 to 300 miles per week.”

A demanding event, the Coast-to-Coast tour allows one rest-day per week. Madzia will average about 75 miles per day, and on several days he will cover 100 miles or more.

“The first couple of weeks is all through mountains,” he said, noting the Cascade Range in Washington and the Rocky Mountains that follow. “We have to keep riding, rain or shine.”

He said the event also has its share of attractions.

“I’m looking forward to the scenery,” he said. “Even the mountains.”

Madzia will pack a camera and intends to keep an on-line journal during the trip. He will also post photographs of the scenery. People will be able to track his progress and even make on-line donations during the event itself.

“If people wish do so, they’re certainly able and welcome,” he said.

The tour will pass through states that include Washington, Indiana, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He will see such sights as Yellowstone National Park, the Devil’s Tower, Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains in New York and Lake Placid. The town of Gloucester itself was the setting for the movie, “The Perfect Storm.”

Madzia’s family members will also welcome him at Gloucester.

His mother, Sandra, said her late husband’s friends and family have arranged other events to combat melanoma. The Madzia family raised $1,500 at a wine-tasting party they held on the anniversary of her husband’s death in November.

“It’s a cancer that doesn’t have a lot of research devoted to it,” she said. “It’s not widely known.”

Her son’s goal is also to raise awareness of the disease.

“I thought this was a wonderful idea,” she said. “His father would be very proud, as I am.”

“Hopefully as few people as possible will have to face this,” Madzia said. “I want to feel I’m helping in some way.”

Contributions can be made to Kevin Madzia, 516 Grandview Ave., Pittsburgh Pa., 15211. Checks should be made out to the Melanoma Research Foundation. His Web site is MILES4MELANOMA.COM. Contributors’ names will be posted there.

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