Hwang saddles up with Connecticut Challenge

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State Rep. Tony Hwang (R-134th District) participated in the Connecticut Challenge bike ride, an annual fundraising event which supports and empowers cancer survivors and their families.

Hundreds of cyclists converged on the grounds of the Fairfield Hunt Club Saturday morning, July 28, to participate in the 8th annual event, which raised nearly $2.5 million toward cancer survivorship support.

Jeff Keith, founder of the Connecticut Challenge, lost his leg at the age of 12 to cancer. He first initiated the Swim Across the Sound for Cancer Care, and would later run across the continental United States for cancer awareness.

The Connecticut Challenge he started funds sixteen hospital 16 across Connecticut, all through money raised at the event.

“There is no other state that has a program quite like this, which focuses on what happens once you have made it to the other side in the difficult and challenging battle against cancer,” Keith said. “Our resources are available exclusively to residents of Connecticut.”

“We have connected with 16 hospitals across Connecticut, and our goal is to be available through every hospital in the state,” said Bob Mazzone, the executive director of the Connecticut Challenge.

Hwang applauded the executive team and volunteers, saying, “The leadership team and the vast army of volunteers have worked tirelessly to create a successful and seamless event and they should be commended. I especially want to thank all the riders and their financial contributors for their support of the bike ride. Without their efforts, the great work of the Connecticut Challenge could never occur.”

Hwang has been a supporter and rider for the past four years and is deeply committed to the mission of the Connecticut Challenge, which is “to empower cancer survivors to live healthier, happier and longer lives.”

“The group’s mission statement is such a powerful message in helping survivors maintain a degree of control in their fight against cancer,” Hwang added. “Our contributions from the bike ride can give hope, information and support to survivors and their families as they continue a lifelong fight to beat cancer. It is a truly inspirational message of valuing the beauty of life.”

Hwang added the Connecticut Challenge is more than just a bike ride.

“This ride is so unique and inspiring because people ride for those impacted by cancer,” he said. “Nearly everyone knows someone who is battling cancer or has battled cancer. This bike ride is about supporting the ones we love and helping them through the trials and traumas that go along with fighting and beating cancer. The compelling stories of those who have battled cancer and are riding is an inspirational reinforcement of the indomitable spirit of people who have beaten or are currently fighting cancer. They are the real heroes in the critical fight against cancer.”

The ride began with a singing of the national anthem, an emotional march of cancer survivors, and the release of dozens of monarch butterflies symbolizing survivors and those lost to cancer.

Amy Nessel gave an inspiring opening speech, Hwang said. Nessel was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer three years ago at age 40.

“I’m three years into chemo therapy and riding chemo-free for the first time,” Nessel announced. “My most recent scans 10 days ago were clean and I’m moving forward to maintenance.”

Nessel added, “Finding and becoming part of the Connecticut Challenge family has been my survivorship life raft. It’s an everyday resource and connection. I plan on riding each year for a long, long time.”

Hwang rode the 25-mile route.

“In participating as a rider, you feel a tremendous sense of being a part of a team that is focused on a single mission — beating cancer and empowering survivors,” he said. “Every participant and volunteer readily offered support and friendship, letting us know that we are a part of a great community doing a worthwhile effort. I was energized by the ‘esprit de corps’ of all the people that participated and volunteered in the bike ride.”

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