2014 Bike Tour Riders and Crew

The Lone Star Circle of Life Team has for the very special task of delivering a message of life throughout Texas. The riders take a week away from their families and jobs to reach out to communities through the state to encourage Texans to become more aware about donation. Each team rider has a special reason to promote donation of either blood, organs, tissue, cord blood or marrow. Each day of the tour, team members rode in honor of a local Texan for their unique contribution either as a donor, a recipient or for their support for the field of donation.

Image of Gary Van Kuiken

Gary Van Kuiken - The Woodlands, TX
Team Captain

Reason for riding: Gary is very aware of the impact of donation through his wife, who has been involved with organ donation for many years through LifeGift in Houston. This is his eighth tour and he rides to help create greater awareness of the importance of signing up to make life giving gifts of organs, tissue, marrow and blood. “In the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to meet many fantastic donors, donor families and recipients of organ, tissue, blood and marrow. Their stories are all very motivational. The need for more donors remains extremely important and the way to increase the number of donors is through increased awareness."

Robert Brown - Pearland, TX

Reason for Riding: "This is Rob's first year to ride in the Lone Star Circle of Life. Rob works at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and has been an advocate for blood, organ and bone marrow donations for a number of years. His mother needed many units of blood in the two years preceding her death in 1979 and this prompted him to become a regular blood donor. Rob has ridden in the Waco Wild West 100 bike ride, benefiting Be the Match, for the past three years."

Image of Becky Canal

Becky Canal - Tyler, TX

Reason for riding: "I have always found the LSCOL to be such a blessing for the years we had with Josh and sharing his story. Because of one family’s selfless act of giving, we had 13 wonderful years with our precious son."

Image of Joe Canal

Joe Canal - Tyler, TX

Reason for Riding: “Our son, Joshua Canal, was a heart transplant recipient in 1998. Because a family we didn’t know agreed to give the gift of life, Josh was able to graduate from high school, from college, get a job saving lives as a paramedic, marry a girl he loved dearly and grow to be a man that his family, friends and coworkers loved and respected. When he passed away in 2011, he became a donor and continued the circle of life for others in need. I ride to honor Josh and all other donors and recipients who are everyday heroes.”

Image of Cindy Johnson

Cindy Johnson - Winston Salem, NC

Reason for riding: “My son, Andy, was born with an immune deficiency and was unable to make his own red blood cells. As he grew, his bone marrow failed to make platelets as well. When he was three, the physicians decided Andy needed a bone marrow transplant. The marrow registry was not yet available, so Andy received his marrow transplant from his brother, Brad. The transplant was successful, but Andy contracted viral encephalitis shortly after which caused severe brain damage. He peacefully passed away in 2002 at the age of 19

"I know of no better way to honor our son, Brad, who gave his brother 16 years of life and the memory of our son, Andy, than to spread the awareness of the need for blood and platelet donations, organ and tissue donations, cord blood donations and joining the Be The Match Registry!"

Image of Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis – Tyler, TX

Reason for Riding: “To honor my daughter, Lauren, who was a multiple organ donor."I think it is important that awareness increase and that all families discuss donation. I began cycling after her death. I would like the opportunity to share her story of how her death saved numerous lives. Knowing Lauren's commitment to serve, we knew she would want to offer the miracle of life to others."

Image of Rich Oropeza

Rich Oropeza – Lewisville, TX

Reason for riding: Rich was in the audience at one of the early Lone Star Circle of Life tours and heard the riders' message and took that message to heart. "Before I learned about the tour, I did not pay much attention to the importance of being a donor. My wife works at a children's hospital where lives are saved due to others giving the gift of life. I now make it part of my daily schedule to encourage others to donate or at least sign up for the marrow donor registry. This is my tenth year to participate in the Lone Star Circle of Life tour. I want to remind others about the importance of being a donor, which can also be in the form of assisting at blood or marrow registration drives.”

Image of Sarah Pipkin Love

Sarah Pipkin Love – Corpus Christi, TX

Reason for riding: “I had my first open heart surgery at two weeks of age. Following the surgery, my heart continued to grow with me just like it should. I consider myself to be very blessed! Throughout school, I played many sports, but concentrated on Soccer. I was recruited to play college soccer and began biking.

My doctor began discussing a heart transplant more seriously during college. I went into “a-fib” in 2009, and was put on the heart transplant list. I was blessed with a 14 year-old boy’s heart. As soon as I could, I was running again and I was allowed to start playing soccer once again about five months after the transplant. In March, after meeting Dillon’s (my donor) family, he and I ran in a half marathon and later we competed in our first triathlon.

I am very honored to be given an opportunity to spread the word about the need for organ donations through the Lone Star Circle of Life!”

Gary Keller Smith - Harrisburg, PA

Reason for Riding: “I would like to encourage people to be donors and to thank donors and donor families. I recently was honored for donating 80 gallons of blood and I have donated bone marrow.  I am also a volunteer marrow courier for the National Marrow Donor Program completing over 118 trips.”

Melissa Symes - Frisco, TX

Reason for riding: "My reason for riding is for a true hero… one that I had the privilege of babysitting, hanging out with, laughing with, worshipping the Lord with and being related to: my nephew, Josh Canal. Watching Josh's journey was life changing for me. He suffered much, and yet when I walked away from a visit with him, I was the one encouraged and challenged. He taught me to be positive and content in any situation. I became an organ/tissue/marrow donor because of Josh and hope to grow the awareness of being a donor.”

Image of Keith Steward

Keith Steward - Gatesville, TX
Head Support

Keith has been involved in the Lone Star Circle of Life since 2000, first as a team member, later a team captain for two years and more recently heading up the support team.

In January of 2007, Keith received a kidney transplant from his friend and Lone Star Circle of Life teammate, Shari Miller. "I want to be a part of the tour to help those that are awaiting a transplant to know that there are many who are working to enlist donors so that they can have a better quality of life.

Debbie Fendrick

Debbie Fendrick - Temple, TX
Pace Car

This is the seventh year Debbie has been on support team for the Lone Star Circle of Life, but she has been volunteering for various areas of the tour for many more years. She volunteers for the Scott & White Pediatric Hematology/Oncology team by assisting at Camp Dreamcatcher, a camp for children with cancer.

Image of Chris Oropeza

Chris Oropeza - Lewisville, TX
Pace Car

This is the fourth year that Chris has been on the support team for the Lone Star Circle of Life. She is a nurse at a children's hospital in Dallas, and has seen the importance of blood donation as well as marrow, organ and tissue transplantation. Chris is the wife of team member, Rich Oropeza.

Holly Mabry

Holly McCoy - Austin, TX
Media

Holly has been a volunteer with several of the Texas Donor Centers of the National Marrow Donor Program, holding her first registration drive when she was in Temple High School and continuing throughout her college years at Texas Tech University. This will be Holly's ninth Lone Star Circle of Life Bike Tour.

She currently works for Senator Dan Patrick in the office of the Texas Senate Committee on Education.

Debbie Mabry

Debbie Mabry - Temple, TX
Coordinator

Debbie has been the manager of the Scott & White Marrow Donor Program since its inception in 1994. She serves as the coordinator of the Lone Star Circle of Life bike tour.

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