By Nicole Davis
For the past six years, Dirk Cushing has biked an average of 600 miles in the month of September (previously June) for the Great Cycle Challenge, a fundraiser benefiting the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. This year, he’s nearly doubling that – and his fundraising goal.
Cushing will ride 1,000 miles this month in an effort to raise $12,000 in the names of two young boys, Lucas Barrett, 14, and his brother Samuel Barrett, 6. He typically fundraises in honor of one child but this year there are two, so he decided he needed to increase his mileage and fundraising goal as well. Rain or shine – and there’s been plenty of rainy days already – he intends to ride every single day to meet that goal.
“There’s a country song that talks about what you know, what you were feeling then but what were you thinking,” he said. “I felt I needed to double this because I am biking for two kids. This, I knew would be tough. We’re into it five days and I have 200 miles. It’s one of those, I knew what I was feeling but what was I thinking? But when you look at Lucas and Samuel, it’s easy. You just have to get it done.”
Cushing, a Greenwood resident and a deputy prosecuting attorney with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, began biking approximately eight years ago, after an injury made it more difficult to run. He was previously a track and cross country runner through high school at Lawrence North and college at Ball State University.
“I wanted to exercise, started biking and fell in love with it,” he said. “Now, I bike more than I run.”
He joined the Great Cycle Challenge six years ago, this year making his seventh challenge. Since the Great Cycle Challenge began in 2015, riders have completed 25,647,476 miles and raised more than $52 million for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to generating funding to find new treatments and cures to pediatric cancer. Cushing has ridden 4,778 miles and raised $34,150 in that time.
Cushing heard about Samuel through a former coworker. Samuel had been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 3. Cushing decided to bike this year with Samuel as his inspiration, when he got a call that his brother Lucas just received a diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma.
“I thought well, time to ride for two,” Cushing said. “Two kids from the same family. I can’t even imagine the devastation that would have on a family. Maybe in some little way, I can do something to help.”
The Barrett brothers are from Valparaiso, Ind. Cushing was able to meet with them and get to know them a little better prior to taking on this year’s challenge. There, he learned that Lucas enjoys fishing and wrestling. Samuel is in a Little Ninja class and desires to be a blackbelt.
“These are tough kids,” Cushing said. “They’re excited about (this fundraiser). And their mother has been wonderful to work with. She’s wonderful about getting the word out about pediatric cancers.”
Cushing resides near Center Grove High School and can often be spotted riding along Mullinix or Smokey Row Road, heading further out of the town where there’s less traffic. On occasion, he’ll ride special, often flatter, courses such as the Cardinal Greenway, the longest Greenway in the state of Indiana at 62 miles long from Richmond, through Muncie and to Marion, Ind.
If he exceeds his goal by 50%, or $18,000, Cushing will hand over the hair clippers to Lucas and Samuel and they can take turns shaving his head.
As of Sept. 10, Cushing raised $672.76 toward his goal and had ridden 342.1 miles.
“The first kid I (biked for), he’s married now,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see that. And the idea that no one else has to go through this one day, it’ll keep anyone going.”
Anyone wishing to follow Cushing’s progress or contribute, can visit greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/DirkCushing. He is also updating his progress on his public Facebook profile, Instagram and Twitter.