Onamia doctor to cycle in support of youth cancer
ONAMIA – Throughout the month of June Dr. Arden Virnig will be spending some extra time on his bicycle with two motives pushing him to go the extra mile.
Participating in the Great Cycle Challenge USA, Virnig will be peddling to seek awareness to youth cancer, while at the same time raising funds to help in that effort.
Virnig and his wife Patti lost their daughter Mary, 22, to children’s cancer, making this a personal challenge.
Presented by Macy’s, the challenge is a month-long cycling fundraiser that encourages the riders to establish their own cycling goals and raise much-needed money for the Minnesota-based Children’s Cancer Research Fund.
Different from a one-day event, this month-long national endeavor provides a setting for participants to achieve fitness along with making a difference.
By reaching out to family and friends for pledge donations each rider is able to contribute to the event that runs June 1-30.
“This is basically set up as a personal challenge for yourself, then put it out for people to witness and they can make pledges,” Virnig said.
Last year, in his first effort Virnig raised more than $9,000 during the challenge by riding a total of 722 miles.
Initially he had set a personal goal to ride 600 miles on the tandem bicycle, to remind people as to how you set up a household for the table or beds for four, often times you have one of those vacant.
Thus, riding with his tandem with nobody riding in the “stoker seat” sends out a message that he wants to keep alive.
Having been in medical practice in Onamia for some 25 years, Virnig is increasing his mileage for the month of June.
“I ride quite a bit,” Virnig said, however, he is looking to record 900 miles during the upcoming month, which would be “about double what I would usually ride.”
Virnig has plans to “do a couple 100-mile loops, but will average 30-40 miles per day.”
In seeking support, Virnig points out on the website that “38 children die of cancer every week across the U.S.”
Virnig explained what led up to him taking on this challenge on the bicycle.
“When Mary went through a bone marrow stem cell transplant, her first, she had to spend 100 days in the hospital before they let you go,” Virnig said.
It was during this time they came across two dads who were cycling across the U.S. raising funds.
Virnig was encouraged by Mary as he recalled her saying “dad, dad you could do this, and I said I would do that.”
Mary told her father she could act as his support and he replied, “that would be cool Mary.”
It was at that stage they “left it.”
TWO YEARS LATER
Two years went by and after the transplant failed Mary acquired a form of leukemia, forcing another major decision.
The family was in a position where Mary would have to give up or go through another bone marrow transplant.
Mary took on the challenge and went through it and survived, only to develop an infection, passing away in November of 2010.
While time went by, Virnig had always said he would follow Mary’s wish but just “didn’t get going.”
Then last spring, “holding one of the flyers from the foundation and this little thing fell out at my feet about the GreatCycleChallenge, encouraging one to challenge yourself.”
Virnig noted he put that paper down on his computer and didn’t think about it, only to come back to it after a week or so.
He then looked at Mary’s picture and realized “she had said what to do.”
It was then he came up with the idea of a tandem and was all in for the challenge ahead.
READY TO RIDE
Virnig became involved with the cycle website and put out his information, while at the same time he didn’t have any idea as to what would happen.
“I had no clue as to what we would raise and all of a sudden the donations began pouring in, unbelievable and we raised more than $9,000, second highest in the U.S.,” Virnig said.
Virnig is impressed as to how the website for the fund-raising effort is set up.
“It’s cool the way it’s set up as far as communication goes, with a lot of the riders communicating and donating,” Virnig said.
Individual states were competing and Minnesota came in third overall for the amount of money raised last year.
With only 400 riders, Virnig compared that to Florida with 1,100 and California with more than 1,200 riders, finishing first and second.
“It was really neat to see how Minnesota really came through,” Virnig said.
Last year with a total of 12,500 riders, the goal was to raise $500,000, with the total coming in at around one million, seven hundred thousand, to more than triple the goal.
VERY FAST START
This year organizers were hoping for a lot more and they have that and then some.
According to the website 21,999 riders have already recorded, with $897,766 being pledged from 462 teams as of May 24 for the event that doesn’t begin until June 1.
Virnig is currently listed on the leader board as No. 1 in Minnesota and No. 5 across the nation with $4,255 already pledged without having logged a mile.
Minnesota is presently listed in the No. 7 position among states.
PLANS TO RUN
Competing was something Mary knew about as she had set the record in the mile run while at Onamia High School.
Plans called for her, after having run in the 2006 Minnesota state cross country meet, to attend the University of Wisconsin where she was going to run cross country.
It was during her sports physical doctors found a mass in her pelvis, leaving Mary and her family facing many major challenges.
YOU CAN HELP
Individuals or businesses interested in supporting Virnig in his challenge for Mary can visit http://www.greatcyclechallenge.com/ and search for his name and submit your pledge.
By clicking on the leader board and searching out Virnig, you will then see the orange donate button.
Last year, more than 12,500 participants in all 50 states pedaled 1.4 million miles, raising nearly two million dollars to help fund childhood cancer research.
On the website you can also check in as participants list their mileage and update family, friends and supporters along the way.
Virnig has penned some personal heartfelt thoughts on his site that can be shared with supporters.
Along with his wife Patti, family members will be cheering their father along as he rides for Mary.
Daughter Sarah is in medical school at the University of Minnesota, Zachary is enrolled at the University of Minnesota Morris and Samuel is a senior in high school.
This year Virnig will be riding a solo bicycle with the theme being the Warriors Ride.
He will also be carrying a Warrior Stick, a sign of family strength, that has been with the family since Mary’s very first surgery.
Made with love by Virnig’s sisters, the stick was with Mary throughout the whole ordeal.
Virnig can also turn for support to a spiral notebook he carries in a pouch on his bicycle, listing the names of those who were there for Mary and the family over the four years, taking time along the way to review and thank each and every one of them.