On a recent steamy Saturday morning, a group of bike riders pedaled their way from Evanston to Milwaukee – over 90 miles in 90-degree heat – to support childhood cancer research and one local family with a special connection to the cause.
The morning of June 11, more than 140 men and women gathered at Northwestern’s Ryan Field before pushing off for Henry Schueler 41 & 9 Foundation’s Cycle for a Cure.
Matt and Susan Schueler organize the annual rides for their son, Henry “Hank” Schueler.
Hank was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2006, the most common type of childhood cancer.
"Henry did not want to die. He made that abundantly clear to us," his story reads on the foundation's website. "Yet he also displayed an uncommon maturity and courageous countenance in the face of overwhelming medical odds. He simply refused to quit."
During his treatment, he gave his family a mission.
“He wanted to find out why this happened to him so that we could prevent it from happening to other kids,” Matt Schueler. “I’m sure in Hank’s mind he was going to be part of that solution.”
Hank never got the chance. He died in 2007 at the age of 14.
In 2008, the Henry Schueler 41 and 9 Foundation was created, with the star athlete’s football and baseball numbers right in the title.
The foundation has since raised more than $1 million in Hank’s memory, committed to advancing research and supporting medical advancements to fulfill his wish in helping other children.
On this year’s ride they cycled their way north along Lake Michigan, passing Highland Park, Waukegan, Kenosha and then Racine. Riders in years past have traveled all the way across the country, as far as Boston – all knowing they were riding for a reason, with the memory of Hank at every mile.
“We saw lots of signs from Henry,” Matt Schueler said. “One of them was in South Carolina when we came to the intersection of Route 41 and Route 9. It was pretty special.”
Hank’s former friends and teammates were along for the ride this year.
“He was a funny kid, he had lots of friends,” Susan Schueler said.
Pulling into Milwaukee, their smiles were as bright as the foundation’s neon green shirts, happy to help a family and neighborhood make a difference.
“It’s really true that we make new friends everywhere we go,” Matt Schueler said. “They learn about the foundation and they drop off a check at the next rest stop.”
With the help of the Ignite the Spirit Foundation, which helps families of Chicago firefighters in need, this year’s Cycle for a Cure raised nearly $150,000.
To learn more about the Henry Schueler 41 & 9 Foundation and ways to support the cause, visit henryschueler.org.