The Dolphins Cancer Challenge is expected to draw more than 3,200 participants when the sixth annual edition takes place Saturday.
All of the participants, whether they bike over shorter or longer distances, whether they run or walk, all have their reason for wanting to be there and help a great cause.
Ron Rubinoff of Plantation is among those who will participate Saturday and his story is one that finds common ground for those involved with the DCC.
Rubinoff has raised more than $17,000 for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center since participating in the second edition of the DCC, which then was known as the Dolphins Cycling Challenge.
The initial inspiration came in the form of a friend named Mike, who Rubinoff described as a “friend, teammate and riding buddy,” after Mike was diagnosed with cancer.
“I rode the 175 miles that year, and recall leaving the stadium in the early dawn,” Rubinoff said. “It was a moving experience. We stopped at the front of Sylvester to be welcomed by (DCC CEO) Mike Mandich and others. Having not been to that part of Miami in many years, I really didn’t realize where we were as we rode up. The adrenaline was pumping as we still had about 88 miles to go on day one. We took a short break, were inspired to ride for our friends and loved ones, and off on the journey we went. I never gave that first stop a second thought ... at least not for years to come.
“I’ve continued to ride each year, including two years ago when Mike lost his battle to cancer. It wasn't easy riding the following year as he was no longer there cheering us on.”
Cancer hit Rubinoff even closer to home in March 2015 when his wife, Leah, was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Leah underwent two surgeries before she was scheduled to start chemotherapy treatments, but complications arose and she had to undergo emergency surgery at Sylvester last Fourth of July weekend.
“On a quiet Sunday morning while she was still in ICU, I took a morning walk outside to gather my thoughts and get some fresh air,” Rubinoff said. “I found myself standing in front of Sylvester observing the quiet and enjoying my solitude. It all of a sudden came to me: I’m at the very spot that I had stopped at during DCC II. Really? Can life become such a blur that you lose sight of your surroundings?
“The irony, riding for Mike, making that stop and now for weeks never realizing where I was. Never thinking that I would ever be back unless I was on my bike. And here I was ... with my wife in ICU upstairs. Wow, it was surreal. What I did see was people hard at work saving lives, helping people through the day — of course the doctors, nurses, respiratory folks, aids, and even the nutritionist who wondered if I had eaten breakfast. The flurry of people surrounded constantly with people just like Leah fighting the worst imaginable fight of their lives.”
Rubinoff says he now spends time at all three Sylvester facilities and sees people of all ages come in for treatments and services.
“I'll never stop riding ... maybe someday, when we don’t need to raise the dollars or the awareness,” he says. “Until then, I ride for Mike. I ride for my wife Leah, I ride for all the people that I have met along the way.”
DCC VI on Saturday will feature several different bike rides at different starting times and locations: 100 miles from the stadium at 6:30 a.m.; 72 miles from CityPlace in West Palm Beach at 6:30 a.m.; 46 miles starting in Mizner Park in Boca Raton at 8 a.m.; 35 miles starting at the BankUnited Center at 9 a.m.; 26 miles from Esplanade Park in Fort Lauderdale at 11 a.m. and 13 miles from the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University at noon.
The 5K Run/Walk will start at the stadium at 11 a.m., and the DCC VI festivities will be capped by a Concert Celebration presented by Pepsi on the Seminole Hard Rock Stage at the AutoNation finish line featuring Grammy Award winners and cancer survivors Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge.
The Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) was founded in 2010 by the Miami Dolphins organization as the signature initiative of the Foundation’s health pillar.
In part inspired by Dolphins alumnus and long-time radio voice Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich’s courageous battle with cancer, the DCC’s mission is to improve people’s lives through financial support for innovative cancer research at South Florida’s only academic-based cancer center — Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
Since its inception, the DCC has raised more than $11.55 million, donating 100 percent of participant-raised funds to Sylvester.
CLICK HERE to donate to Rubinoff's fundraising page. For additional information, call (305) 943-6799 or visit www. DolphinsCancerChallenge.com. DCC can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/RideDCC and on Twitter at @TackleCancer.