On Saturday, it was one of the central locations for the biggest fundraising event in the NFL, the Dolphins Cancer Challenge.
On a sunny, gorgeous South Florida morning, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Senior Vice President for Special Projects and Alumni Relations Nat Moore led hundreds of cyclists on a 14-mile ride that would take them to Hard Rock Stadium.
A similar scene played out at four other locations in South Florida for DCC VII — Hard Rock Stadium, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton — with the goal the same everywhere: raising funds for the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. There also was a 5K run/walk that began at Hard Rock Stadium, with the festivities capped by a celebration concert featuring rock band Counting Crows.
“It’s really thrilling to see all the people that are riding together and raising money for this great charity,” Ross told participants from a stage before the start of his ride. “The Dolphins, what we do for charity is great. It’s the largest amount done in sports in this country. What we’ve created here is incredible and we continue to grow it. We’re committed to bringing the community together and doing things to really benefit this great community of South Florida.”
Ross was joined for the ride by his wife, Kara.
“It’s sports, biking, health; they all go together,” Ross said. “If you’re involved in sports, you love being outdoors and participating.”
Along with Ross and Moore, other participants in the ride that began at the Dolphins training facility included alumni Troy Drayton, Mark Duper, Chris Conlin and Bob Brudzinski.
Even though they weren’t riding, quarterback
“It’s a great event,” Phillips said. “Honestly, I didn’t know we were doing it and I wanted to be a part of it. It affects everybody across the world. It’s one of our biggest things that we need to fight for right now.”
Duper has been a participant since the start of the DCC, but the event took on a different meaning for him after he was diagnosed with renal cancer a few years ago.
“Anytime the Dolphins are involved in something and they definitely need a face that people remember from the past, I’m always there to help them because I have cancer in my family and I’m a cancer survivor,” said Duper, who said he now was healthy. “It doesn’t take a brain scientist to know raising money for cancer has helped cancer for research for a very long time. If I had my cancer 10 years ago, I’d be dead probably because they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Now, you know what to do with it and that’s a good feeling.”
The Dolphins Cancer Challenge was founded as the Dolphins Cycling Challenge in 2010 by the organization as the signature initiative of the Miami Dolphins Foundation’s health pillar.
In part inspired by Dolphins alumnus and longtime 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.
Moore, who played with Mandich for four seasons (1974-77), was among those involved in the launching of the event and he has seen it develop through the years.
“There’s a passion now,” Moore said. “The first year we put it together in 90 days and raised about $600,000 and we might have had 500, 600 riders. Now, you’re looking at when it’s all said and done this week, we’ll probably between the 5K and the bike ride, have somewhere (around) of 4,000 participants that are actively raising money through riding, walking, running. More volunteers. More donors.
“This is something that South Florida has embraced. To me, the beauty of the ride, the first time I did it, I did the 100-mile ride, was really, really simple: We rode through the wealthiest communities and the poorest, and that’s sort of like cancer. It doesn’t discriminate. So we’re raising money to support all of South Florida through the UM Sylvester Cancer Center.”
Since its inception, the DCC has raised more than $16.5 million, with 100 percent of the participant-raised funds going to Sylvester. Almost $4.2 million already has been raised this year, according to the DCC website, and there were almost 3,500 participants registered.
For Drayton, riding in the DCC is a natural complement to his frequent team-related visits to hospitals.
“We visit hospitals all the time with cancer patients and them taking their chemotherapy and those are the people that I ride for,” Drayton said. “I know a lot of people are dedicating this ride to family and friends and different things like that, but it’s a lot deeper than that. It’s for all cancer patients, all people who are fighting for their lives right now. More importantly, it’s a preventative thing. We’re trying to prevent cancer. That’s what I’m riding for. We’re trying to put a stop to this debilitating disease and I enjoy doing it. I’m sure everybody out here enjoys doing it and they have their reason for riding, but that’s my reason.”