One would be hard pressed to meet a family whose life wasn’t drastically changed by a cancer diagnosis. In that instance, the story of Mel Bradley, his late wife Nancy and daughter Cheryle is not that different.
Like most families faced with a cancer diagnosis, however, it is the story post diagnosis which somehow becomes noteworthy. A noteworthy journey for Mel Bradley, which may soon result in a total of one million dollars raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society thanks largely in part to his participation with Team in Training (TNT) and his love of coaching cyclists.
It’s a partnership which resulted from both tragedy as well as inspiration.
In 2005, while his wife Nancy was being treated for leukemia at Stanford Medical Center, Mel began bike riding to help pass time, as well as help clear his head as his wife fought for her life.
“Up until then, I thought a five, six or seven-mile ride was a big ride,” Mel said of climbing on his elementary level road bike he’d acquired from a discount retailer. By the time of his wife’s passing in fall of 2005, he had graduated to a better bike, as well as logging 20 miles daily and 50 miles each Friday.
“I redefine bike riding,” he said of his progress, as well as his investment in a new road bike.
During this same time, their daughter Cheryle had joined forces with Team in Training as a runner to honor her mom at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. It was through his daughter’s TNT participation that Bradley came to “drink the purple Kool-aid” as he puts it.
Not looking to become a runner, Bradley learned there was a cycling option and the “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride,” in Lake Tahoe captured his interest. A ride which offers riders the option of either 35, 72, or 100 miles throughout the Lake Tahoe and Truckee area.
To properly prepare for a ride of this distance, Bradley began training with TNT Sacramento. The commitment required him to drive from his Oakdale home to Sacramento each week for long rides with the rest of the team. At the time, the Sacramento TNT was the closest to the Oakdale/Modesto area.
Proving to be a leader in the fundraising department and with a passion which was contagious, TNT approached Bradley to start a team based out of the Stanislaus County area. In 2012 Bradley began his journey as a Head Coach and TNT Team Captain, leading a team of 12 riders through 18 weeks of training and raising a total of $43,000 as a team.
In the past six years, the team has grown from 12 to a current number of 80 preparing for this year’s Tahoe event in early June. To date the Stanislaus County group has raised close to $850,000 and they’re not done.
Bradley has set a goal for the team to raise a total of $300,000 this season, putting the team total at well over a million dollars.
“I think what I have to sell, sells,” Bradley said of soliciting sponsorship.
In addition to traditional sponsorship, Bradley began seeking Corporate Sponsorships this year.
“People read my passion, they see why I’m doing it,” he continued, “they know why I’m doing it and every year the team grows.”
According to the Head Coach and Team Captain the Stanislaus County team has been the top fundraising team in the nation the past two years. Breaking the million dollar mark means more to him than just an amazing accomplishment, it means lives changed. Eighty-five percent of funds raised by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society goes to research.
“Raising money that most of which goes to research, that hopefully someday will stop this insanity, that speaks for itself,” he said of his passion for working with TNT and his team members. “That our million dollars might have had some sort of small part in making that research possible and possibly finding a cure.”
As Bradley speaks of TNT, fundraising and the athletes he works with throughout the training, emotion becomes evident.
“I enjoy cycling,” he said, “but I don’t think I would do nearly as much if it wasn’t for Team in Training.
“Seeing people do something they had no idea they could do,” Bradley added, wiping back tears, “that’s really, really fulfilling to me. Someone who at the start of the season thought five miles was more than they could possibly ride and they’ll do 100 miles with 5,000 feet of climbing at 6,000 feet lake level elevation. That is really cool to me. That gets to me.”
As the training season begins to get into full swing, Bradley shared interested riders (regardless of experience) are still encouraged to join the team. Sponsorship is also encouraged. Bradley is also available to speak or make presentations for corporations or service groups interested in corporate sponsorship.
“I do it to help people I will never meet, in ways I will never know,” Bradley concluded.
For information on sponsorship or to join the TNT team contact Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209-765-7009.