Mooresville resident Terry Hennessee decided to join the fight against cancer in 2004, the year after he lost his mother to breast cancer.
It was his first year participating in the 24-hour cycling fundraiser organized by the Charlotte-based nonprofit 24 Hours of Booty. Since then, Hennessee has cycled in six of the 10 annual 24 Hours of Booty events, and volunteered with the event's organizing committee in 2009 and 2011.
He rides with Team Carpe Diem. Their motto: "Seize the day, ride bikes, fight cancer."
For 2011's 24 Hours of Booty event in July, Hennessee raised $15,050, earning an opportunity to take a private bike ride with Lance Armstrong in October.
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He raised $10,000 of his donation when he entered 24 Hours of Booty in the Jimmie Johnson Foundation's Helmet of Hope, in which that foundation accepts nominees from sports media and fans for awarding $10,000 grants.
The 24 Hours of Booty event donates half the money it raises to LIVESTRONG, the charity with which Armstrong is affiliated. The other half is given to local cancer organizations. It has given more than $1 million to LIVESTRONG over the past four years.
Hennessee helped 24 Hours of Booty receive a top-fundraiser award from LIVESTRONG this year with the $15,050 he raised. The top fundraisers from 24 Hours of Booty were invited to participate in the 2011 Ride for the Roses Weekend in Austin, Texas, Oct. 14-16 near LIVESTRONG headquarters and Armstrong's home.
Hennessee was among a group of about 400 fundraisers who received invitations to dinner at Armstrong's home Oct. 14. He was one of eight people invited to join Armstrong on a private bike ride the next day.
What amazed him about his brief conversation with Armstrong, Hennessee said, was the celebrity's humility. When Hennessee thanked Armstrong for all he had done in the fight against cancer, Armstrong told him, "No - thank you."
"He said to me, 'Without people like you, this wouldn't happen,' " said Hennessee, emotional as he recalled the conversation. "He has been all over the world, won seven Tours (de France), but is still humble enough to realize that it's everybody in the fight against cancer."
Hennessee participated in a 5K run and cycled 20 miles during Ride for the Roses Weekend. He was inspired by spending the weekend surrounded by cancer survivors and the people who love them.
He has had his own struggle with cancer. In April 2011 he was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, on his shoulder. He was diagnosed early, when it was very treatable. He also has an incurable but nonthreatening form of skin cancer on his leg, which will continue to spread. He attributes his basal cell carcinoma to working on a farm shirtless and getting sunburned many times years ago.
Hennessee has a personal goal of increasing awareness about skin cancer.
"My mission is to start talking to kids about tanning in moderation. I think there's just not enough awareness about skin cancer, because people get it young," he said. "When I see kids who are 14 or 15 tanning all the time, something's got to be done."
Hennessee is helping plan two future cancer fundraisers with 24 Hours of Booty. Lake Norman High School will host its fourth annual charity baseball game, Wildcats Strike Out Cancer, next spring. In the past, Lake Norman High has played against Mooresville High.
He is also helping plan a new event, BBQ for Booty, to be held in the Lake Norman area in April.
Hennessee said he was inspired to continue his fundraising efforts by something Armstrong said in a speech during Ride for the Roses Weekend. Armstrong said Steve Jobs didn't lose his battle with cancer, but rather ran out of time waiting for a cure.
"We don't want to let people run out of time anymore," said Hennesee. "So I'm geared up for 2012."