It’s not hard to find the worst of humanity cycling through the internet these days, but every so often, it serves to connect people on a wholly good and purposeful level. That’s the story of Indianapolis’ Team Collin.
Explains Team Collin’s captain Carl Field, “I was long-time member of an online cycling forum that had thousands of members. It hosted a sub-forum called “the Lounge,” dedicated to any and all topics except cycling. In 2008, a forum member who was a relatively new father announced in the Lounge that his son Collin, who wasn’t even a year old, had just been diagnosed with leukemia.”
Carl explains that the community that had formed within the Lounge rallied around Collin’s father and became a support network, allowing him the space to vent, express his fears and more. A year later, at the end of 2009, the forum members decided to build a road bike using donated parts to raise money for the family. “Collin’s bike” was built and auctioned on eBay, ultimately purchased by a forum member and then resold several times, raising enough money to help ease the burden of health care costs for Collin’s family.
Tragically, Collin passed away in April 2010, just after turning 2. He left behind thousands he had touched with his short life, many whom he had never met. It was later that same year, Carl says, that a forum member from Atlanta announced, “Hey, there’s this cool cycling event called 24 Hours of Booty coming to Atlanta this year — we need to form a team and go help! With the blessing of Collin’s family, Team Collin was officially formed; eight of us attended that event that fall, and Team Collin had been to our first 24 Hours of Booty event.”
Carl felt a personal need to ride for Collin. “I am a cancer survivor myself; I was a single parent raising my 5-yr old daughter alone after we lost her mother to cancer two years earlier. Years later after I remarried, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was one of her caregivers through multiple surgeries, chemo and radiation. I have a pretty ugly personal history with that insidious killer. And as soon as I had attended my first 24 HoB event in 2010, I knew I would stay involved — it was a natural fit for me.”
Reflecting on some of the most impactful moments from his time with 24 Foundation, Carl shares several… from meeting Spencer Lueders to spending time with “the bombastic Nadine Wall in her loud green socks.” But the most impactful, he says, came in Atlanta in 2011.
“This time we were accompanied by Collin’s father, Phillip. I had a great big Team Collin banner made to hang up; everyone on the team took turns signing the banner and writing messages to Collin and his family. I walked over and stood quietly next to Phil and just put my arm around his shoulders as everyone silently stood with tears running down our faces. That was probably the moment that cemented the core of the Team Collin group forever. We’re now like family, supporting cancer survivorship together for the last eight years.”
Cementing is an appropriate word for Carl’s commitment to 24 Foundation and Team Collin. Recently he got a survivor’s tattoo as a marker for what cancer has given to – and taken from – him.
“My idea of what it means to be a survivor has evolved a lot since my treatment ended in 1994… from simply being someone who had managed to stay alive, to someone who recognizes the vast spectrum of challenges faced by survivors that goes beyond just living through treatment. Along with that comes a real ownership of that role, one that I identify strongly with. I really love the 24 Foundation logo, so I used that as a starting point, and then made changes to ‘make it mine’. It’s on my calf, so any time I’m on the bike I can look down and see it. It reminds me of my obligation to keep fighting the fight.”
As Carl bluntly states, “Cancer is never going to stop. It has no soul; it has no conscience. It will continue to be horrible and insidious. Because cancer won’t stop, we can’t stop either.”