Riding for Cancer

Arden Virnig, a Family Practice Physician from Mille Lacs Health System, has just ridden 44 miles, from the main campus in Onamia to the neighborhood clinic in Garrison, and back.  “As I rode our tandem bike solo today it made me think about all the ways as a parent you make so many little decisions that assume all of your children will be included in plans for the rest of your life,” he says. “We had room around the kitchen counter for six, we always bought vehicles that could carry six, we purchased tents that could sleep six. Then cancer comes along and you have to adjust. Now we only count to five.”

Virnig and physician wife, Patti, lost their oldest daughter, Mary, to neuroblastoma in 2010, when she was 22. He is a supporter of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF), and heard about the group’s 2015 Great Cycle Challenge. CCRF invests in lifesaving, leading-edge research in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatments to cure childhood cancers and blood-related disorders. The Great Cycle Challenge is a national event that encourages riders of all fitness levels and ages to pedal throughout the month of June and log miles to fight kids’ cancer.

Virnig recalls a day when he and daughter Mary were hanging out together in her hospital room. He says she had come across an article about two dads who were riding across the country to raise money for research. “She got so excited,” Virnig remembers, “and said, ‘dad, you would do something like this, wouldn’t you?!’” She told me that she couldn’t ride, but she could be my support team.”

So when the doctor saw the cycling challenge, this avid biker thought it would be the perfect fit. Participants set a personal ride target for the month and get sponsorships and/or donations toward their goal. There are also matching Foundation funds, so once the $1,500 mark is achieved, dollars are matched 18:1.

Because cancer is the largest killer of children from disease in the U.S. and on average, 36 children die from cancer every week, Virnig feels strongly about raising funds to support the CCRF.

Virnig has pledged to ride 600 miles in the month of June, and also feels pushed to go beyond his comfort zone. That’s why he is riding his tandem bike, one ride a week of his average of 150 miles per week. “I’m doing it to remind people that children’s cancer leaves your household with an empty seat at your dinner table, in your car, and an empty bed in your house.”

To pledge or donate to Dr. Virnig’s team of one, visit his page.