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CINCINNATI - On Sunday, 591 cyclists completed their state-wide tour to fight cancer.
The group called the Hope Riders began in Cleveland and finished at Yeatman's Cove in Cincinnati. Riders traveled 328 miles for the American Cancer Society. The noncompetitive tour took four days.
Tom Decker became involved in the Pan Ohio Hope Ride seven years ago, and received some new fuel when the cause hit close to home. His mother was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"It really had a big meaning for me to ride for her. Unfortunately, she passed away, but I ride in honor of my mom still," he said.
Decker's mother died in February 2011 at the age of 62. The Columbus, Ohio resident also serves as the Pan Ohio Pride co-chair.
So far, the group has raised $741,357.32. Proceeds benefit local programs and the society's Hope Lodges. Each Hope Lodge offers patients and their caregivers a free place to stay when receiving treatment in another city.
"You might be too tired to drive home. Having the Hope Lodge makes things easier," said Nikki Williams, program manager with the American Cancer Society.
Organizers describe the tour was symbolic because the start and finish line have lodges in those cities. There are 31 Hope Lodge locations throughout the United States.
Decker said completing the tour is pretty tough, but the group takes a break every 20 miles. He also said organizers spend the entire year looking for safe routes, bike trails and country roads.
The veteran cyclist said rookies shouldn't be discouraged.
"The first year is kinda of overwhelming for most people," he said. "But when they get to talking, sharing their stories, they become friends, and lifelong friends."
To learn more about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org .
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