Leo's memory the driving force for Ryde-A-Thon

Woman poses on stationary bike
Ryde instructor Michelle Fisher has helped launch and organise the 24-hour Ryde-A-Thon. — Photo: Rhian Campbell

As hundreds of participants, organisers and supporters gather at Camana Bay this month for the fifth-annual 24-hour Ryde-A-Thon, they won't go long without hearing the name Leo Lewis.

After all, he's the driving force behind the event.

Leo was born with a rare metabolic genetic disorder and died when he was just a week old.

"In the weeks and months following his death, Rich (Leo's father) and I made a conscious decision to honour his short life and embrace the courage and bravery he showed and taught us, by creating a legacy in his name," Leo's mother Maya Lewis said. "When your child dies, the only way you have to parent them is to ensure you live life enough for the two of you, and try to keep their memory alive. We decided that we were going to do this by giving back to the community that held us up when we wanted to crumble."

One of those people was good friend, Michelle Fisher. One day, Fisher — who works as an instructor at Ryde — mentioned an idea she had for a fundraiser which involved teams of people participating in a day-long ride, run or walk. Ten months after Leo Lewis died, the first Ryde-A-Thon took place.

"In the first year of the event, we really didn’t know what to expect, and we were absolutely blown away with how people jumped on board with this idea and wanted to support it," Fisher said. "It feels really good to know that we got this one right and are able to be such a driving force of change for each and every one of the charities we have supported."

Ryde and its instructors like Paige Tibbetts and Stefania Gandolfi (top) help pull off the event, which ends with an outdoor Ryde extravaganza party on the Crescent. — Photos: Davion Cotterell 

Last year's event raised more than CI$155,000 for Special Olympics Cayman Islands. This year, organisers are hoping to raise even more to donate to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

The event — slated this year for 19-20 April — challenges teams of between four and eight people to participate in 24 consecutive hours of cycling and/or running/walking at and around the Ryde studio in Camana Bay. The event draws a large crowd as there are food, drinks and family-friendly activities going on throughout, with an outdoor Ryde extravaganza party on the Crescent to finish off the event.

"The whole 24 hours are honestly such a vibe, that is quite frankly, indescribable," Fisher said. "If I had to choose my favourite moment, it would have to be the last hour — everyone is exhausted, but the mood and atmosphere provide the energy that everyone needs to keep pushing through."

None of it would be possible, organisers say, without the team at Ryde itself.

"Feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself and feeding off the energy of others is incredible," Maya Lewis said. "For sure, a lot of people felt for Rich and me and everything we’d gone through losing Leo and got behind our desire to create a positive out of a negative, and I’m humbled to know that people have found that inspiring."

That's just what they were hoping to do: Let Leo inspire a community.

This article was published in the April 2024 print edition of Camana bay Times. 

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