Ride 2 Rosemary raises money for cancer with latest stop in Andalusia

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, October 5, 2023

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Ride 2 Rosemary recently made its annual stop at the Holiday Inn Express in Andalusia as part of its five-day, 525-mile journey from Memphis, Tennessee, to Rosemary Beach, Florida.

Now in its 13th year, this year’s group of men has participated in this charitable cycling event to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for the fight against cancer. Ride 2 Rosemary advocates a healthy, active lifestyle and supports the mission of West Cancer Foundation.

Dr. John Kakales has ridden with the group of cyclists since its inception in 2011.

“Our start originally began with nine guys when one of our buddies was in prison and saw he wanted to ride his bike to Florida upon release. We said we wanted to go, too, so from that, we found an organization we could honor and help at the same time. One of our guys is a gynecologist at the West Cancer Foundation, and all the money we have raised was dollar for dollar given to them. From that original nine in Memphis, it became a faith walk and men’s retreat where boys could be boys. We have almost 100 on the roster with our number of riders in the 60s after being in the 50s last year,” Kakales said.

This year’s group began their journey on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Memphis and made their first stop in Tupelo, Mississippi. From there, they made their second and third stops in Tuscaloosa and Selma. Andalusia was their fourth stop on Tuesday, Oct. 3, where they stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. The group departed Andalusia on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and completed their trip when they arrived in Rosemary Beach in the afternoon hours that same day.

“We came in on fall break this time, so our families would be there. After riding with the guys, we were able to catch up with our families. It’s humbling to be able to do this for cancer. We are honored to do this for those who are going through treatment or who have lost family members. Their loss and suffering do not compare to me going up a hill.”

Kakales lost his father and mother-in-law to cancer.

“This really hits home to me. Through this time frame, we have done this for so long and seen other family members and friends suffer through cancer. Doing this ride helps fulfill their memories. Just about everybody in our group has been touched by cancer. We do it about the same time every year or make plans when fall break is situated in the schools,” he said.

The organization prefers to have riders in proximity to where the journey starts each year.

Kakales said Covington County and Andalusia locals could help by donating to the cause at classy.org/campaign/ride-2-rosemary-2023/c495977.

The group has stayed at the Holiday Inn Express each year since Oct. 4, 2011, just two years after the hotel opened in Andalusia. Ride 2 Rosemary had 41 of the hotel’s 68 rooms booked Tuesday night.

“These are the most amazing godly men who have sacrificed themselves to ride and raise money for cancer research. They have all dealt with tragedies regarding cancer and are an inspiration to us all. We see it as a true blessing when they ride into Andalusia and are privileged to have them stay at our hotel. Every year they come, they grow, and there is a possibility they will book the whole hotel next year if they keep growing like they have,” Holiday Inn Express General Manager Dianne Inmon said.

Inmon added that any time they stop in Andalusia, citizens should acknowledge these men for what they do.

“Just throw your hand up and praise them. They go through many towns, so we should pull over if we come across them on the road and pay our respects to them. My daughter-in-law was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, so this is a very important cause to me. Praise the Lord now that she is cancer free.”

Trey Chitman, 43, is a cyclist of 15 years who joined the group this year. He serves as director of a non-profit organization called America’s Kids of Arkansas.

“I have many friends on my cycling team and club that have done this ride before. It is a great honor to be asked to attend and join this brotherhood. Just as many families around the world, my family has been greatly impacted from various forms of cancer. My first experience was with my aunt Vivian and my uncle Gary. My aunt was diagnosed in the early 2000s and fought for over 10 years before finally losing her battle with cancer. I have many other family members that are survivors due to improvements in medicine and technology,” Chitman said.

Ben Ladd, 46, is the chief operating officer of Aquaserv, Inc. in Memphis. His cycling journey began in 2019 when he joined Ride 2 Rosemary.

“This community is incredible, and I am so grateful for the ways we get to support and help the community and each other. The two most direct ways cancer has impacted my life are through my grandfather who battled prostate cancer for over 10 years and my wife who lost her mother to leukemia when she was 9 years old,” Ladd said.

Jon Ewing, 50, is the Chief Operating Officer for a women’s clinic in Jackson, Tennessee. He has been with the group for nearly the whole time at 12 years.

“I love Oak Hill and the memories made going to the top. I love 30A on the last day. Every year, new memories are made with this band of brothers, even though the places may be the same,” Ewing said.

Will Parrish, 36, is in his third year with the group and views the Ride 2 Rosemary as a challenge.

“I love to challenge myself. Riding over 500 miles in five days is quite a challenge. Also, the ride supports a great cause. From my experience so far, the group of men is a supportive group who walk through life’s ups and downs together,” Parrish said.

For more information about the West Cancer Foundation in Tennessee call 901-322-2984 or visit Ride 2 Rosemary’s Facebook page at facebook.com/Ride2Rosemary.