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March 3, 2005

12-year-old with Leukemia Drives Pitt Cyclist

For Pitt staffer Mike Violette, cycling around Lake Tahoe for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride on June 5 is more than a dream. It’s a 100-mile sojourn to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a 12-year old Mt. Lebanon girl with a rare form of leukemia.

Violette’s muse is Amy Katz, a girl whose plight to find a stem cell match has created a fundraising sensation, known as Amy’s Army. The young girl was chosen by the society as a patient hero – someone meant to meet and inspire amateur athletes participating in fundraising events throughout the country.

Violette met Amy recently with about 30 other athletes from the Pittsburgh region who are training together for the Lake Tahoe ride. “Meeting someone like Amy helps you focus — if training seems too tough, the patient hero keeps you going on. And rather than say you are raising money for leukemia, you’re raising it for a real person.”

Resident director for Litchfield Tower C, Violette learned about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society athletic program from a friend in his native Connecticut. She had trained for a triathlon benefiting the Society in New York. “I was intrigued by the program. I decided it was great cause and something that I wanted to get involved in.”

Violette works out daily and is a member of a training team directed by certified coaches. Although he is riding indoors, as the weather improves, Violette expects to ride in 20-30 mile treks. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s, its Team In Training program is the world’s largest endurance sports training program with more than 220,000 participants raising over $500 million since 1988.

“On my own, the longest I ever rode was 40 to 45 miles,” Violette said. “With this structured training program, I don’t think the 100 miles will be hard to reach.”

Violette plans to raise $4,000 between now and the race. So far, he has brought in $375 without any major fundraising campaign. And he wants people to know that if they can’t make a financial contribution, they should consider giving an extra vial of blood for the bone marrow registry when they donate blood.

As Violette plans his next workout, he looks forward to spring, he says: “This is a great way to make a difference and also to get in shape.”

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