Headlines

As reported by the Journal Inquirer, June 14, 2010.

Easy Rider

Calhoun's Growing Charity Event Goes Off Without a Hitch

By Phil Chardis

SIMSBURY ó After experiencing bicycle breakdowns, road mishaps, and physical problems over the last few years, Jim Calhoun was well-prepared for the 2010 Calhoun Cancer Challenge Ride and Walk on Saturday at the Performing Arts Center in Simsbury.

It was already pre-determined that Calhoun would do the 25-mile ride rather than his usual 50, so he could spend more time meeting, greeting, and mixing with the riders and walkers, who this year numbered a record 1,000.

But the University of Connecticut basketball coach also had some special riding partners ó including Jan Bolland Tanner, owner of Benidorm Bikes in Canton, who had outfitted Calhounís bicycle, and Dr. Peter Schulman, Calhounís cardiologist at the UConn Health Center.

"Itís always nice to have a doctor with you," Calhoun joked afterward. "Early intervention is nice."

This year, however, Calhounís ride finished without a hitch, save for a heavy mid-morning rainstorm. In fact, the 68-year-old UConn coach impressed some riding experts.

"He looked awesome," said Tanner, herself a world champion woman cyclist in the late 1980s and early Ď90s. "Coach Jim has a very fluid pedal stroke, he has a good desire, and heís working hard."

"I think Iím impressed most by his ability to be able to talk as much as he does while heís riding. He talks a ton. Thatís like two workouts in one ó heís riding and heís maintaining conversation the whole time."

So, whatís new?

The event has experienced tremendous growth during its four years of existence. This year, the added 5K walk, led by Calhounís wife, Pat, drew some 450 people to go with the 550 riders, who chose courses of 75, 50, 25, or 10 miles. All secure pledges for their efforts, and the monies raised are divided between the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center (80 percent) and the national Coaches vs. Cancer charity (20 percent). The fundraising will continue through August.

"We raised $90,000 the first year, $260,000 the second year, $375,000 last year, and weíll be well beyond that this year," Calhoun said. "Every single person has a cancer-type reason to be out there. We may not eradicate this disease in my lifetime, but by detection, by early intervention, and research, we can do so many things to improve the quality of so many peopleís lives. The people here today did something.  I think everybody here, through physical exertion, feels like they accomplished something very special and thatís a great feeling."

Calhoun has been quite busy doing his charity work over the past few days. On June 1, he spoke at the Franciscan Life Center sports banquet in Southington. Last Thursday, he was at Bristol Central High School to benefit the Shepard Meadows Therapeutic Riding Center, which helps children with autism.

Today, the UConn coach is serving as the chairman of a fundraising golf tournament for American International College, his alma mater, and tonight, he will accept the Distinguished Public Service Award for public service and charity work in the state from the Connecticut Bar Association in Hartford.

"Itís my time to be out," Calhoun said with a laugh.

Saturday in Simsbury, despite the rain, more than 1,000 people also thought it was a wonderful time to be out.