Cyclist rides to raise money for children’s cancer research

Mark Collette, of the Village of McClure, has been participating in the Great Cycle Challenge, which raises money for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Last year, Mark Collette had a partial knee replacement.

This year, the Village of McClure resident suddenly realized he had not ridden his bicycle in three years.

He recently learned about the Great Cycle Challenge USA, which raises money for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, and Collette knew it was time to get back on his bike.

He pledged to ride 400 miles by the end of September. So far, he has clocked more than 160.

Collette manages this pedaling around working a full-time job as a cabana caretaker.     

“On the days I work, I get up at 4 a.m. to ride my bike,” he said. “If I’m not working, I ride around 6 a.m.”

Although he has racked up miles riding throughout the community — namely in the villages of Pinellas and Gilchrist — Hogeye Preserve Pathway is probably his favorite place for pedaling.

“It’s a 2.5-mile loop,” Colette said. “My longest ride so far has been 26 miles in a day. I’m hoping to do 50 miles in a day.”

Obviously, when the 63-year-old takes on a challenge, he doesn’t fool around. Plus, he finds this cause to be worthwhile.

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, about 1 in every 285 children will be diagnosis with cancer before their 20th birthday.

That means each year, parents of 15,780 American kids will try to help their children navigate the diagnosed and treatment of cancer.

“I never had kids,” Collette said. “But I’ve always loved kids.”

And this isn’t the first time Collette has raised money for sick children.

When he was 50 years old and still living in Massachusetts, he traveled to Bermuda to participate in a marathon, which raised funds to build Sherry’s House, a place for families to stay free of cost in Worcester, Massachusetts, while their children undergo cancer treatment.

Donations for Collette’s Great Cycle Challenge will be accepted through October.

To donate, visit great cyclechallenge.com/Riders/MarkCollette.

Staff writer Sherri Coner can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5400, or sherri.coner@thevillagesmedia.com.