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When Anna Balzer of Perrysburg first wanted to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society after her older sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she was nervous and did not want to bother or harass people for money.
Nonetheless, she set her goal of raising $4,000, enough money to get her in America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride around Lake Tahoe, split by the California-Nevada state line.
She joked that if she raised $10,000, she would take part in the 72-mile bike ride with her sister Kate, 24, on the handlebars.
Anna, 22, and other Balzer family members started the fund-raiser in early February, a little over a month after Kate was diagnosed.
They have collected more than her wildest dreams, raising $10,575 and counting.
“It has blown up,” Anna said. “I had no idea it would be something this huge. She obviously can’t ride on my handlebars, but we can take a photo of it.”
Through word of mouth, Facebook, and emails, she reached out to family and friends to raise money and was overwhelmed by how they stepped up.
“This was the first way me and my family felt like we could do something to help,” Anna said. “Family members wanted to help but didn't know how. We figured this would be a good way to do something productive for cancer research.”
Their aunt, Mary Lockhart, who lives in New York City, said at first she was scared when she heard about Kate’s diagnosis, but then thought this could not happen to a family with a better support system.
“Anna should teach [fund-raising],” she said. “It is all from the heart. They definitely turned a negative into a positive. I’d like to see Kate on her handlebars. They are three amazing sisters, and have a great brother too." Siblings include Julia, a high school student, and Matthew, an Ohio State University student.
Kate is a graduate student at the University of Michigan, where she is studying social work.
She will finish her chemotherapy about the same time as the bike ride begins on June 2.
The America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride is put on by Bike the West organization and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise money.
Anna said Kate is doing well and halfway through chemotherapy.
“We are hoping for the best, it has a high success rate,” Anna said of her sister’s treatment. “She is in terrific spirits.”
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a blood cancer that is most common in people from ages 15 to 35.
Julia, a 15-year old student at Notre Dame Academy, said while she and her family were having a hard time when they first heard about the diagnosis, Anna was looking at the big picture and was able to do something to help a lot more people.
Because Anna raised more than $4,000, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is financing her trip and bike ride in Lake Tahoe.
The organization has two goals: to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
Even though Anna and the Balzers eclipsed the $4,000 goal, and then $10,000, they have not stopped.
Anna, a University of Colorado graduate and current Bowling Green State University student, works at Swig restaurant in Perrysburg, where a fund-raising event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will be held in late May.
Julia said it is easier for people to donate because of how great Kate is. She said Kate is not seeking pity donations, and she remains positive and is comfortable telling people about her situation.
“I think it is really cool Kate is going to school for social work,” Julia said. “She is going through a hard time, and she is still reaching out trying to help others.”