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Fundraiser continues to fight cancer by cycling the Myers Park ‘booty loop’

Riders pass Queens University of Charlotte during 24 Hours of Booty
Riders pass Queens University of Charlotte during 24 Hours of Booty

In 2002, while launching his 24-hour road cycling fundraiser for cancer research and treatment, founder Spencer Lueders decided to incorporate the long-established name of a 2.8-mile Myers Park running and cycling loop in the event’s name.

Yet when the name “24 Hours of Booty” got out, many neighbors along the loop were aghast – some so upset they spray-painted over the word on the event signs often associated with a person’s rear end.

Now, with the 14th Booty ride set to being at 7 p.m. Friday, the word is no longer considered dirty. Before dozens of cancer survivors peddle off to start this weekend’s ride with about 1,200 cyclists registered, the event has raised more than $14 million and spread to three other cities.

“We have this unique name, and it’s something that people have rallied around,” Lueders said. “Suddenly we put ‘booty’ on the map as a proper noun. The neighbors on the loop throw parties during the event – they’ve really embraced it. People in real estate advertise houses for sale as being on ‘the loop.’

“All it is is a bunch of people out there exercising and raising a lot of money to fight cancer.”

Lueders had no one in his family fighting cancer when he started the charity event. He grew up in Dallas, and he and his father cycled together and were fans of Texan Lance Armstrong, a cycling racer who overcame testicular cancer.

So he began putting together small events to raise money for Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation. By 2001, he was practicing law in Charlotte, and in November of that year decided to elevate his fundraising by riding his bicycle for 24 hours around the Myers Park loop.

Others, including cancer survivors, heard about what he was doing and joined him during parts of his ride. They included a managing partner in his firm who had lost his wife to cancer. “He came out at midnight in the cold weather and rode with me,” Lueders said. “We talked about cancer and what it does to families.”

Of the 24 hours, he rode alone for only 30 minutes. He raised $6,000, but “I was so energized afterward and ready to open it to the public and give everyone a chance to ride and raise money.”

Riders bring own stories

He also decided to give more of the money raised to local groups. This weekend’s ride, which ends at 7 p.m. Saturday, will raise more than $1.2 million for Livestrong, the Levine Cancer Institute, The Keep Pounding Fund at Carolinas Medical Center, the Brain Tumor Fund for the Carolinas, Be The Match foundation and the Wind River Cancer Retreats.

Organizers hope the ride ultimately will raise at least $1.5 million once all donations are in, said event spokeswoman Jenni Walker.

We put ‘booty’ on the map as a proper noun. The neighbors on the loop throw parties during the event – they’ve really embraced it. People in real estate advertise houses for sale as being on ‘the loop.’

Spencer Lueders, founder of ‘24 Hours of Booty’

Not everyone will ride 24 hours. Many will ride among the 108 teams, some will make only one trip around the 2.8-mile loop – others won’t stop until 7 p.m. Saturday. “The average person will ride 100 miles,” Walker said.

As he has for several Booty rides, Steve Kibler will drive up from Florida to ride 160 miles for his son who died of leukemia at 160 days old.

“There are a lot of stories like that in the ride that are very moving,” Lueders said.

No matter how far a person rides, all riders pay a $65 registration fee and pledged to raise at least $400.

The loop is Queens Road West, Hopedale Avenue and Queens Road. One lane along the entire loop will be closed and the northbound lanes on Queens Road West will be closed from 6:30 p.m. Friday to 6:30 a.m. Saturday

Many will camp at a tent city erected at “Bootyville” in an athletic field at Queens University of Charlotte and Myers Park Traditional School.

Lueders is determined to spread the event to other cities. “We want to take it across the country,” he said. “I don’t think we’re anywhere near done yet.”

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