Here is the Ride story in Amherst Bee today!
Ride For Roswell:
Team Three Generations of Hope rides to honor family, offer hope
by KELLY JACKSON Reporter
Grief still raw in their minds, members of the immediate and extended family of the McLeans will ride together in this year's Ride For Roswell after closing out what Carolyn McLean called "the worst years of our lives, collectively."
In 2008, Carolyn and her family lost her daught er-in-law's mother, Shirley Kadar Dona on May 25, to cervical cancer.
Only three months later, daughter Alison McLean Gmerek, who was 42 years of age, lost her battle against cancer.
But the first of Carolyn's seven grandchildren, Sean McLean, did not.
Doctors diagnosed Sean with Hodgkin's lymphoma in August 2003 when he was 7. Now 13 and a seventh grader at Transit Middle School, Sean has been clear of cancer since September 2003.
The year of Sean's diagnosis marked the first time cancer made its uninvited appearance in the lives of the McLeans and also the first time the family participated in the annual Ride For Roswell.
Originally riding under the name Sean's Rocking Reds, a suggestion by Sean, the first team raised the most funds that year in the children's team category.
Sean McLean, left, and his friends model the shirts designed by his aunt, the late Alison Gmerek McLean, for the team Three Generations of Hope during 2008's Ride in June.
But when Alison and Shirley were diagnosed with cancer in 2005, Sean's mother, Mary Kay McLean, renamed the team Three Generations of Hope in honor of Sean, Ali and Shirley.
"It's inspirational to see people riding in their memory," said Carolyn, who noted that during her first Ride For Roswell, she was torn up at seeing a mother pull her young daughter in a bike trailer behind her with the sign, "Just because my mom has brain cancer, doesn't mean we can't ride."
Carolyn, of Amherst, said she and Alison's husband, Jay Gmerek, almost didn't get involved in this year's Roswell event.
The loss of her daughter was extremely difficult, as Alison was passionate about everything in her life, including the relationships with her family, friends, faith community and with her students at Nardin Academy.
Jay Gmerek, husband of the late Alison Gmerek McLean, and Scott McLean, father of Sean McLean, ride in last year's Ride For Roswell with Three Generations of Hope.
Until the night before Alison's death, Carolyn said she and her husband, Roy, had faith that their daughter would beat the disease.
"What I learned that weekend is that God is in control. Not us," said Carolyn. "Do we like what happened? No. But we're not in control."
Although drained by their losses, Carolyn and Jay found the energy to join in this year's efforts to ride for Roswell Park.
"Even though it'd be easy to blow it off, we cannot do it. Cancer can't win, and we're not going to let it win," said Carolyn.
Riding together while representing Three Generations of Hope, Jay for his wife and Carolyn for her daughter, the two will participate in the 12-mile Peloton ride from Roswell Park Cancer Institute to Baird Point at the University at Buffalo's North Campus.
Every rider in the Peloton ride must raise a minimum of $1,000 before June 1.
Eight differently routed rides will be held this year, including the Peloton, on Saturday, June 27.
Last year's event raised $2 million for cancer research and patient care programs at Roswell Park.
"We 're all doers. [Ride for Roswell] gives us a sense of helping with this scourge on humanity, because it affects every living thing," said Carolyn. "It gives us hope with our contributions."
Since the team's first ride in 2003 for Sean, the support and members joining the family's team have increased each year.
Extended family members and friends from six continents have contributed their time and donations to support Three Generations of Hope in the Ride For Roswell.
"We are so very grateful. We are grateful for our family and huge, extended family of caring people who helped lessen our suffering during these tough years," Carolyn said.
For families who may be new to dealing with cancer of a friend or family member, Carolyn said to start praying, take advantage of all the services offered by Roswell Park, join support groups at church — in the neighborhood or at Roswell — and be willing to accept help from other people.
For more information on the 14th annual Ride For Roswell fundraising event, visit giving.roswellpark.org, or call the ride coordinator at 843-7433.