Couple Rides for Courage in El Tour de Tucson
By Loni Nannini, Beads of Courage Storyteller
For Carol and Christopher Roarty, riding in the 39th Annual El Tour de Tucson will propagate a cycle of courage for children facing serious illnesses and their families.
The husband and wife will ride their bicycles 32 and 63 miles respectively as part of Team Beads of Courage during the renowned bike race on Saturday, Nov. 19.
The cause is as personal as it gets for the couple from Gilbert, Arizona.
Their daughter, Grace, became a participant in Beads of Courage when she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13; she received hundreds of beads chronicling her five-year leukemia journey before succumbing to complications of chemotherapy in 2019.
“Grace loved Beads of Courage. She really loved collecting the beads: It gave her something to look forward to and definitely helped her. It was the one thing about cancer and the hospital that wasn’t scary, I guess,” said Carol.
Cycling For Courage
Like other participants with Beads of Courage, Grace’s beads provide a multi-colored, multi-faceted narrative of her illness. Each bead of glass, pewter, and clay marks some type of milestone in her journey. She collected beads for visits to the Emergency Department and for stays in the hospital, as well as for X-rays, surgeries and other procedures. She also received beads for blood transfusions, chemotherapy and other treatments. Additionally, she received “Act of Courage” beads when a clinician felt she needed extra recognition.
“She had so many beads and would keep track of them on a chart and mark them off when she received them. She just loved collecting them, even up to her last surgery. She had all the doctors waiting while she picked out a bead,” said Carol.
The nonprofit proved inspirational on multiple fronts for Grace, an aspiring teacher who loved art and drawing.
Carol said Grace was thrilled when her design for a bead was chosen for the Beads of Courage Dream Bead Program. The program allowed children to submit a request or drawing for a bead and paired the child with a glass bead designer to create the one-of-a-kind bead.
Originally Grace submitted a design for a monopoly board, but eventually she replaced that with a rendering of a Minion from Illumination’s Despicable Me film.
“The monopoly board was too complicated, so they designed a Minion bead. It was so cute and so unique and meant so much to her. It was just something that was a lot of fun,” said Carol.
A Fund-ride for Fun-riders
For their part, Carol and Christopher are determined to support Beads of Courage in its mission to honor the courage of kids and their families one bead at a time. To that end, they have collectively pledged to raise at least $1,000 in the upcoming El Tour de Tucson. Both Chris, a first-time rider in the race, and Carol, who rode for Team BOC in 2019, are excited about the upcoming ride.
“I am not out there to compete or do anything spectacular. I really do it just to have fun and to support Beads of Courage,” said Carol, an avid runner and marathoner who completed the Berlin Marathon in September.
She hopes that her involvement will also help to promote awareness about the Beads of Courage mission along with the many nonprofits that benefit from El Tour de Tucson.
The race—which offers a 102-mile Century Ride in addition to the 63-mile Metric Century, the 32-mile Metric Half Century and three Fun Rides of varying lengths for kids and adults—has become an institution for cyclists in the regional Southwest. It also serves as a significant annual fundraiser for more than 50 nonprofit organizations.
“Sometimes I think people don’t know a whole lot about El Tour de Tucson and the amount of good that it does in the community. We have helped to raise over $100 million for charitable causes in Tucson since we started 39 years ago,” said TJ Juskiewicz, executive director of the race.
Calling All Courageous Riders
The event attracts participants of all skill levels nationwide and is very important to Beads of Courage, according to BOC Innovation Officer Becca Gladden.
“Not only is this a big fundraiser, but it helps to raise awareness about Beads of Courage. We have colorful team jerseys and many of the team members ride together and that helps to promote awareness of our organization. Additionally, every person who rides for Beads of Courage spreads the word to friends, family and co-workers, so it is important from both the standpoint of visibility and fundraising,” said Gladden.
Gladden said that Beads of Courage is honored to call the Roarty family members of its team.
“Families like Chris and Carol, who have had a child who received Beads of Courage, understand the great value of our programs. For them to continue to support our mission by riding in El Tour is very meaningful to us. We are grateful to everyone who joins Team Beads of Courage and to all of those who support them as they ride,” Gladden said.
Riders of all levels are encouraged to join Team Beads of Courage by visiting the website and registering at https://beadsofcourage.org/el-tour-de-tucson/. If you can’t ride yourself, consider supporting Carol or Christopher Roarty or another of the team members currently registered by visiting https://www.pledgereg.com/boceltour22.