Owings Mills man has a good reason to ride

Dan Healy is a bicycling enthusiast. He is used to long rides, and he routinely cycles 20 to 30 miles at least three times a week in group rides or with friends. But even Healy amped up his training for a grueling 150-mile ride that will take place over two days this weekend.

Since May, Healy, an Owings Mills resident, has been alternating long 40- to 60-mile rides with short 20- to 40-mile rides on a variety of terrain four times a week.

"I could do 75 miles over the course of a day," he said, which would split the upcoming ride's total mileage. "But then you have to get up and do it again the next day, and I didn't want to kill myself."

On Saturday and Sunday, Healy is participating in the inaugural Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Sibley Memorial and Suburban hospitals, a fundraiser for cancer research at the three institutions.

Not only is Healy, a fit and trim 29-year old, riding in it but he, like all participants, has pledged to raise at least $2,500. A month before the ride, he had raised $600 and — thanks to help such as a benefit dinner by his church, Reisterstown Seven Day Adventists — was confident of reaching that goal.

Ride to Conquer Cancer is Healy's first cycling fundraiser. An electrical engineer who works from home for the New York company Clever Devices, he heard about it from his fiancée, Anastacia Chetty, an oncological pharmacist at Johns Hopkins Hospital's Kimmel Cancer Center.

Initially he signed up because he liked the idea of doing something proactive for cancer research.

"It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to participate," said Healy, whose emotion about the ride became more personal when shortly after he'd signed up, a friend, Michael Szalay, died of brain cancer at age 27. Healy and Szalay had worked together in the company's New York office before Healy moved to Baltimore.

"Mike was constantly positive. He and I had a love of sports in common. Hundreds of people attended his funeral," said Healy, who, with Szalay's parents' permission, is dedicating his Ride to Conquer Cancer in Szalay's memory.

Mike "would be honored that Dan is riding in his name," said Janette Szalay, his mother, in a statement issued through a publicist for the fundraising event.

Robert Szalay, Mike's father, died of cancer in 1989.

Healy is looking forward to the ride but he stresses that it is not a competition, something the organizers also emphasize. All cyclists, beginners to advanced, as well as teams, are welcome. About a month before the ride, more than 1,600 riders were registered.

For safety reasons, the route isn't being announced until the ride begins. Once it does, public "cheer" stations will be set up along the route. Riders will be accompanied by volunteers and crew, who will offer medical and bike-repair help if needed, as well as water, snacks, meals, tents and entertainment at the overnight stop.

Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Sibley Memorial and Suburban Hospitals formed the race to drive donations for their fundraising campaigns and to raise awareness of cancer research and treatment options. Healy's ride, in the Washington area, is the first of four: Philadelphia, Oct. 11-12; New York, June 6-7, 2015; and Chicago, Sept. 19-20, 2015.

Kimmel Cancer Center raises $40 million to $50 million annually, the majority of philanthropy from patients and their families. But nationwide, philanthropy geared toward sports has become an increasingly popular, and successful, marketing tool. One such event, Swim Across America, annually raises $300,000 to $400,000 for Kimmel Cancer Center.

"Cyclists in particular are passionate about giving back and we wanted to capture that," said Michael Hibler, development officer at the Kimmel Cancer Center, who partnered with the two hospitals on this first-ever bike event. "Nothing like this was happening in the area before. It's been really well coordinated"

As for Healy, the ride has taken on a meaning he didn't expect when he signed up.

"It's special day — for Mike," he said.

For information about Ride to Conquer Cancer, call 844-777-RIDE (7433) or visit the website at http://www.ridetovictory.org.

Go to http://dc14.ridetovictory.org/goto/danhealy for information about Dan Healy's participation or to donate to Dan's ride.

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