By Karen Kefauver
Link to Sentinel Article
Dani Beckerman has raced as a competitive cyclist, but she will pedal at a mellow pace — more isla
nd-style — for Saturday’s fifth annual U’ilani Fund Ohana Ride for Breast Cancer.
The ride, starting and ending at the Capitola Community Center, includes 25-, 45- and 65-mile routes winding throughout Santa Cruz County. A Hawaiian luau follows the ride.
Beckerman, 46, a psychologist, said she was inspired to return to the ride for a fourth time because cycling is an ideal way for her to support an important cause.
“I have not lost any close friends of mine from cancer, but I have friends who lost people to cancer at a very young age,” said Beckerman, who lives in Santa Cruz. “It is such a devastating disease. It hits everyone. There’s no discrimination on race or gender. Cancer is so intrusive and there’s pain at so many different levels. I want to help create more ease during the healing process. And since I am athletic and love cycling, this is the perfect event.”
Named for Marina Lee U’ilani Bermudez — a family practice physician who died from breast cancer in 2000 at 42 — the non-profit U’ilani Fund, is designed to honor her memory and help others diagnosed and living with breast cancer.
Bermudez was born in Hawaii, lived in Santa Cruz and practiced medicine in the Bay Area; recipients of the funds live in each of these areas.
“It’s an all-volunteer organization,” said Santa Cruz resident Janet Fogel, the Ohana Ride director. “Ohana means ‘family’ in Hawaiian and Marina was family to us.”
Fogel, who lived in Oahu for 16 years and was a teacher, met Marina as a freshman in her class. The two formed a close relationship, and Marina, in effect, became part of Fogel’s family.
“She moved in with us and we helped raise her,” said Fogel. When the Fogels returned to California, Marina joined them.
The fund was launched in 2001 and the biking fundraiser started in 2009. The bike ride was a natural fit for the organization, said Fogel.
“There are a lot of people who have found bicycling to be a way to cope with pain, a lot of different kinds of pain,” she said. “It feels like the right thing to do for [Marina] who dedicated her life to relieving pain.”
The event has nearly tripled in size since it inception, yet organizers don’t want it to become too big, for fear of losing its intimate nature.
“It’s a very personal ride,” said Myrna Sherman, a Capitola resident who has participated four times. “And, at the same time, there is a carnival spirit. People decorate their helmets, the food is just fabulous and it’s joyous because we are all doing it for a good cause,” said Sherman, who is also the education and ride director of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club.
Last year’s event raised $15,000. This year $18,000 has been raised with a target of $20,000 according to Suzanne Nicholas, the organizer of the post-ride luau — a big incentive for many riders. “We even have miso soup at one of the rest stops,” said Nicholas, who is co-chair of the fundraising board.
Though this year’s event has been filled to capacity, donations are still welcome.
Nicholas explained that fund beneficiaries will be receiving conventional Western cancer treatment, such as acupuncture, massage, Chinese herbs, workshops and counseling. The treatments are intended as a complement — not an alterative — to chemotherapy and radiation.
Beckerman said she especially likes to support the alternative ways of healing with that “ease pain and provide opportunities.” She has registered for the 45-mile ride and looks forward to a reunion-like atmosphere.
“It’s an incredible ride. The energy and the spirit are amazing. It’s very uplifting and positive,” Beckerman said. “It’s a beautiful route and therapeutic and healthy — we eat great food at support stops.
“It connects people of all generations. People of any ability can consider joining it because you go at your own pace. I like that there’s a lot of feminine energy. We are taking care of each and doing this for good people and good causes. You ride for the people who can’t.”