By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
SUN CITY CENTER — For five seniors from Sun City Center, life begins at (an average age of) 70. In March of 2011, five men from the retirement community will pedal their bicycles 2,400 miles across the country to celebrate the life of a young girl who succumbed to pediatric cancer. The endeavor, named Sammy Rides, was founded by Mike Libenson, whose granddaughter, Sammy Rotman, died from osteo sarcoma. She was only nine years old. Libenson will be joined on the ride by John Bear, Mike Brown, Adolf Lex and Jim Wheeler.
Next March, the five men will leave Sun City, Arizona bound for Sun City Center, Florida on bicycles. Their 2,400 mile journey will include stops at schools, hospitals, corporations and local government offices. Sammy Rides is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money and awareness to defeat pediatric cancer. The riders plan to arrive in Sun City Center on May 11, 2011, to coincide with festivities to celebrate the community’s 50th anniversary. The project includes hundreds of volunteers, friends and neighbors.
Last Friday, the five men were tested by physicians from the University of South Florida for endurance, strength and agility. Four of the men are over 70 years old, the fifth man is in his mid-60s. On Saturday, with a film crew from the American Association of Retired People (AARP), the riders and volunteers took off from Simmons Park in Ruskin for a test and training ride through the area.
In addition to raising money and awareness to fight pediatric cancer, the group hopes to raise awareness about Sun City Center as an active and vibrant retirement community. They also hope to inspire their neighbors in the community towards active volunteerism.
In the end, despite the lofty goals of pedaling 2,400 miles across the nation, the fundraising and the media coverage, what will push the riders through each mile towards their goal is a nine-year-old girl named Sammy who lost her life far too early to a faceless and senseless killer.
For more information visit www.sammyrides.com. Also, stay with the Observer News for future updates about the project and complete coverage of the journey as it progresses.