I’ve been riding le Tour de Femme since 2009 and to me it is so much more than a one day ride. It is a community of heart, compassion and hope. Seeing many of the same people every year, coming to volunteer, sponsor and ride, I wondered why the tour is so special to them. In these series of interviews, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to some of our sponsors, riders, volunteers and finding answers to some of the burning questions. How did the tour start? Who lives in the house at rest stop #1? Where do those cookies come from?
Today we are meeting one of the riders from the first year- and every year after that. Sandy Fowler lives with cancer, yet she never misses a ride. Bicycling has become a way to live each day more fully and le Tour de Femme has become a family affair, a special community, a way to belong and to give back.
Sandy went to Cycling Spoken Here and bumped into Ron Hamner, one of le Tour de Femmes founders, who not only encouraged her to ride but bicycled with her on that inaugural 31 mile ride. Little did he know she had chemo that day before, but seeing that she had “left it out on the road”, helped her off the bike, and to a chair. She will never forget his compassion.
In the weeks that followed, she saw the Rex Hospital Angel Fund at work. She had met a young girl (about 8) in the infusion center before and chatted with her family. They traveled from Lumberton for chemo and could barely afford the gas money. The little girl sat for hours with nothing to distract her from the chemo. On this morning, she was presented with a portable DVD player and a stack of Disney movies, courtesy of Grab my Wheel/ Tour de Femme. Seeing the look on the little girl’s face was a defining moment for Sandy. From that day forward the Tour de Femme was more than a personal goal, it was a passion and commitment to improving the lives of fellow cancer patients.
Sandy’s enthusiasm and commitment for the tour was contagious and her family has been volunteering in many capacities every year since. From set upat 5:30am to serving as an integral party of the annual registration crew, to greeting riders and sweeping (bicycling with the last rider of each route), Sandy’s daughter and grandchildren make le Tour de Femme a priority. William (18) and Donivan (16) are now sweepers. Tashyra and her Mom volunteer at registration and the finish.
Jennifer, who has seen her Mom battle cancer since she was 10, finds Le tour de Femme to be a haven of understanding for what her family endures. There is an acceptance and positivity that is unique.
Tashyra and Sandy prepare to ride in 2006, Donivan having fun in 2008, William rides as a sweeper in 2015 Photos courtesy of Gerald Dukes
Sandy encourages her grandchildren to be the best they can be - “to always strive to become a better version of themselves” and she inspires them in her daily determination to keep going, to ride her bike, to live everyday to the fullest.
Sandy Fowler-Why I ride- Le Tour de Femme
Interview with Sandy and her daughter and grandchildren about the positive impact le Tour de Femme has had on their family. Video produced by Wheeler Davis