Candlelighters ride on after Cycle Oregon canceled

The non-profit and its Ride for a Child will ride this coming weekend

Two people in Ride for a Child ride during last year's race (Courtesy: RFAC)

PORTLAND Ore. (KOIN) — Originally, it was supposed to be a one year thing.

Sixteen years ago, Dick Hartung’s daughter, Jill, died after a long battle with cancer. Friends and family decided they would bike in the annual Cycle Oregon to raise money for Candlelighters, a non-profit in Oregon and Washington that helps families dealing with childhood cancer. Seven people in total joined the ride.

Dick Hartung's daughter, Jill (left) passed away from cancer 16 years ago. He started Ride for a Child and they've been riding ever since. (Courtesy)
Dick Hartung’s daughter, Jill (left) passed away from cancer 16 years ago. He started Ride for a Child and they’ve been riding ever since. (Courtesy)

“That was supposed to be it,” Hartung said.

Then, a year later, more people approached Hartung and his other daughter, Katie, asking for them to do it again. They haven’t stopped since, with the ride-group, known as “Ride for a Child” growing up to 60 people. They raised more than $155,000 this year and have raised over $2 million since the ride began.

“We raised a little more money and it just continued to snowball,” Hartung said.

Earlier this month, Ride for a Child was supposed to do its 16th Cycle Oregon, but due to poor air quality from fires all across the state, the annual event was cancelled. Not having a race to call home isn’t going to stop Ride for a Child. The group plans to do a smaller ride this upcoming weekend, continuing their mission of helping out Candlelighters and children fighting cancer.

“It’s the kids,” said Evelyn West, the ride director. “It’s helping the families with gas cards so they can drive their kids from Medford to Doernbecher for chemo, it’s the snap card to help families who’ve been at hospital all day and didn’t think to pack food for their families.”

Keira Cook is an 8-year old cancer survivor who just finished a bout with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. While she was in the hospital, undergoing treatments and fighting her cancer, Candlelighters was there for her and her family. It’s this type of support that Ride for a Child funds. The group, which bikes hundreds of miles, honored Keira and 4 others children fighting cancer this year.

“I don’t know how you would ride that far,” Cook said. “My legs would get way too tired.”

If you want to learn more about Ride for a Child and Candlelighters, you can click the highlighted links.