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24 Hours of Booty of Sandy Springs - 2013 Spotlight - Brian Hevesy and Team Blood, Sweat and Gears

Cancer changes everything. Brian Hevesy is a 59-year old husband, father, and grandfather.He is also a survivor -- he is a fighter, a champion, and an inspiration to many. Brian’s personal battle with the disease ignited a new level of strength and passion in him, which changed his priorities, changed his family, and it changed his life.

First came the diagnosis of stage IV Mantle Cell Lymphoma in April 2005.This is a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is quite aggressive and difficult to cure.Brian went through four months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant to stimulate new bone marrow growth.

Next came the inspiration. One of Brian’s caregivers, Jan Frandsen, happened to be an avid cyclist and had raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on numerous century bike rides. In 2006, Brian and his wife Debbie accompanied Jan to Lake Tahoe to witness one of these bicycle events for the first time. Brian had never ridden more than 10 miles on a bicycle, so he was motivated by what he saw. “To see 2,000 bike riders and their families all having been touched by cancer in some way, that’s what got me inspired to do it myself,” Brian said.

Despite the challenges of building endurance from his recent stem cell transplant, Brian committed to ride that same century in South Shore Lake Tahoe, Nevada in 2007. He spent months rehabilitating his body and training for the ride. Brian not only completed the 100-mile hilly ride around Lake Tahoe, but he was the No.3 fundraiser out of 2,000 riders, generating over $40,000 in donations.

“That feeling of being able to give back and raise money for a cause, being involved and associated with people. You learn, and you try to make a little bit of a difference. That’s what got me going,” Brian added.

And then the inspiration fueled more action in the entire family.The Hevesy family and friends got involved with 24 Hours of Booty. Since 2009, they have participated as a team in four events and raised more than $31,000 for cancer charities.

This chapter in Brian’s life as a survivor and a champion for curing cancer got a kick-start from his son, Nathan, who participated on a team to ride in his father’s honor at the 2009 24 Hours of Booty event in Charlotte. Nathan and his wife Brie live in the Atlanta area, so the team was excited to have the opportunity to participate in the inaugural 24 Hours of Booty Atlanta the next year.“The community, the enthusiasm, the food, the bikes, all the people... It all generated the excitement again and my wife and I looked at each other and decided to do it,” said Brian, who started training again to do the 24 Hours of Booty ride in 2011.

24 Hours of Booty quickly became a family affair. Brian, Debbie, Nathan, Brie and Brie’s brother Devin joined forces to participate in the 2011 and 2012 rides.In 2012 the team called itself “Blood, Sweat, and Gears” and was recognized as the team with the highest fundraising average per team member ($2,000 per rider) as well as a the third place for team total in fundraising ($18,000). Brian was recognized as the top individual fundraiser out of the 350 participants ($13,000).

Team Blood, Sweat, and Gears has already registered for the Oct. 5-6, 2013 event in Sandy Springs. Brian wants to ride at least 100 miles this year, and he and Debbie will have their new grandchild, Taryn, to inspire them from the sidelines this October.

Brian admits that the most challenging part of the fundraising process is actually asking people for money and following up with donors.He makes his appeal a personal one, so letters focus on survivorship. “I didn’t want it (a letter) to focus on my past.I wanted it to focus on now and what we can do to raise money for the future,” Brian said. As the 2013 event approaches, Brian’s personal fundraising goal is simple: to do more than he’s done in the past. Nathan will serve as team captain for 2013, and he’s hoping to recruit more team members for this year’s ride.

Brian is now in remission, but the effects of fighting and surviving the disease have made a lasting and positive change on him and his family.“It can make you feel uncomfortable to be an inspiration to someone, but we all need that and to be able to look up to folks.So if I can inspire others to take an extra step and get out of their comfort zone to make a difference, if I can make people do that, then it makes me feel good.”